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Meta Descriptions: SEO Myth vs Fact

Meta Descriptions: SEO Myth vs Fact

There’s a handful of SEO tips floating around about how to get in the top search rankings on SERPs, and what matters and what doesn’t matter in the world of SEO.  And while we can gather all of the tips and tricks we want, these won’t get us very far if these tips are actually myths.  

One such myth that we hear frequently in our client meetings involves meta descriptions.  The myth goes like this: “Meta descriptions count into the ranking algorithm for Google SERPs.”  Perhaps you have heard this too. We are here to put a stop to this myth once and for all.  But first, let’s begin with the basics:

What is a Meta Description?

Every website has the opportunity to write a meta description, but either they don’t at all, or it doesn’t serve them correctly.  Most likely, this is because there is a mix-up as to what a meta description actually is and how it should be used.  

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The meta description tag in HTML is the short (160 character…slightly more than a Tweet) blurb that is used to summarize a web page’s content.  Search engines use these meta descriptions to tell those looking through the SERPs what a website is about.  

Meta Descriptions and SERP Rankings

Most people are writing meta descriptions with aforementioned myth in mind.  If one believes that meta descriptions are purely for ranking purposes, then most likely, they will be written with one goal in mind: to include as many keywords as possible. However, from a strict algorithmic perspective, it is not necessary to include a bunch of keywords in one’s meta description.  Why?  Because the fact about meta descriptions is that it is the most important feature for improving click-through rates from search pages.  

The breakdown of how SERPs take meta descriptions into account is not directly through keywords, but is best explained like this:

  1. Meta description content is not a factor into the search ranking algorithm.
  2. User behavior, or how many people click on a link, is factored into the search algorithm.
  3. Specifically speaking, click-through rates or (CTR) does affect the algorithmic ranking process.

Therefore, we must write a meta description not directly to rank high in the SERPs, but as a means to get the viewer to click-through to our webpage.  Webpages with a high click-through rate will rank higher in SERPs.

To put it simply: meta descriptions are for conversions not for rankings.

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How to Write a Click Worthy Meta Description

A good meta description will not only give the user a thorough understanding about what the website is about, it will also pique the curiosity of the user so that he or she clicks through to your webpage.  A few basic, but valid pointers on writing engaging meta descriptions are:

  • Be descriptive: Use language and words that describe to the user what your product or service is. More specifically, what will the user find when he or she clicks through to your site? Is your website full of photos, online quizzes, or is it an ecommerce shop?  Let your user know!
  • Call to Action: We talk a lot about the importance of a carefully placed call to action, and while a meta description may be an unlikely place for an outright CTA, language that invites a response from the reader goes a long way.
  • Inspire Curiosity: Treat a meta description like any other piece of marketing material and inspire curiosity in the user.  If they are curious enough they will surely click-through to your website.
  • Keywords: Wait, didn’t we just say that placing keywords in your meta description was not your game plan?  We are sticking to that, but only as it pertains to SERP rankings.  However, users want to see relevant words for the topic they are searching for. We live in a busy world and users don’t want to waste their time on a website that is not relevant to their needs.  

Go ahead and take a look at your website’s meta descriptions.  Given the list above, how do they fare?  If you want to take it one step further: make a list of the ones you rated best, and then check your analytics to see which pages are actually bringing in the most traffic.  Is it what you expected?  Share your results with us!

Randy TaylorMeta Descriptions: SEO Myth vs Fact