In my last SEO blogpost, I went over some of the fundamentals of writing strong title tags and how they affect your SEO efforts. But an effective title tag can only take you so far. Pair it with a keyword-rich meta description and you’re set up for an SEO win.
The most important job of the meta description is to inform the searcher of what they’ll find when they visit your website. They are short snippets of text that incorporate keywords and ultimately function as the advertising copy that influences the searcher to click. The descriptions should utilize target keywords in an intelligent and natural way. Much like with title tags, you don’t want to write sentences that don’t make sense just to work in your keyword phrases.
A general rule of thumb is to keep your meta descriptions between 155-175 characters, with spaces. This is how many characters the search engines will generally display within the search results. Any longer and you risk seeing them shortened in the search results. It is vital to work your keyword phrase into the beginning of the description to ensure it will be displayed. I would recommend including your phrase within the first 120 characters if possible.
Every page on your site needs to have a unique meta description. Each one should include keyword phrases that are relevant to that specific page. For example, if you have a page that features restaurant specials, you will need to write a description that lets the searcher know that this is the page they want if they’re looking for dining specials, specifically. Too many times I’ve seen multiple pages with the exact same meta description within the same site, which can do more harm than good. Google makes every attempt to index and show pages with distinct content. Having duplicate content like the same meta description on each page will not only affect your rankings; but Google may remove your website from their index all together.
Meta descriptions have been a topic of debate recently, considering that some search engines, especially Google, will pull snippets from your site that they think fit the users search phrase instead of the meta description you provided. I’ve seen this happen on a number of occasions, but I’ve seen my meta descriptions displayed more often. Which is why it’s important to consider your keywords when creating content on your site.
In the end, it’s really up to the individual to decide if they want to spend time writing their own descriptions or if they want to leave it up to the search engines to pull from the site. I, for one, will continue to invest time into writing efficient descriptions and not leave anything to chance.