On this black Friday, I’ve decided to start a new series in my blog touching on specific pieces of the SEO puzzle, their importance, and how to implement them. This has grown a little out of questions I hear when I meet with clients and prospects. Hopefully as we continue this series, we can help people understand what different elements of the SEO landscape are.
I’m starting with the Meta Description. One of the questions I most often get asked in meetings is what are meta-tags and then questions about specific meta-tags. At a high level, meta-tags are the generic term for a number of tags on your page that help describe elements of your page. There are title tags, description tags, alt tags, and more. Today we are going to look at an often overlooked tag. The meta description tag.
What is the meta description tag?
As Moz puts it, Meta descriptions are HTML attributes that provide concise explanations of the contents of web pages. Meta descriptions are commonly used on search engine result pages (SERPs) to display preview snippets for a given page.
At a very high level, a meta description is just a basic description of what a page is about. You are telling the indexes from Google or others what your page is about. The meta description also often shows up in the search results as the text describing the link.
Why Does Nobody Seem to Care About Meta Descriptions?
Well, the most obvious reason is that Google has specifically stated on numerous times that the meta description is not a ranking factor. Since other tags are ranking factors and tags like the title tag, which we will cover in another post, are strong ranking factors, people tend to dismiss the meta description. Why bother with something that isn’t a ranking factor, right? They will often put generic descriptions or automatically generated descriptions. However, overlooking the meta description is short sighted.
Why is the Meta Description Still Important?
If you look closely at the second half of the definition. That meta descriptions are commonly used on search results page to describe the link and what the page is about. Any time your content is appearing publicly in front of those that are searching for what you have to offer, it should matter to you. This is one way to grab the users attention. And Google is not stupid, they know this too. That is why even if it is not a direct ranking factor, it is an indirect ranking factor.
Google uses click through rate as what is believed to be a very strong ranking factor. In fact, Search Metrics listed it as the most highly correlated ranking factor in 2014. So if your meta description is a large chunk of what users see when they come across your listings in search, wouldn’t it then be very important to whether they click on your link? Therefore, it is one of the most important factors in your click through rate, which we have shown is a huge factor in your SEO ranking. Got all of that? Meta descriptions matter.
You should consider your meta descriptions for all the pages that are important to you in search ranking and try to write text that draws in the user and makes them click. Keep an eye on your descriptions and how they appear in the search results. As we all know, Google is constantly tinkering with how results appear, so be aware of how your important pages appear and make sure that your message is getting across in the way it is intended, and not getting cut off, etc.
Make sure you pay attention to every thing that is part of the user experience with the way your site is presented. Google is getting smarter and better at factoring in everything, whether directly or indirectly, as it does with meta descriptions. Make sure you are factoring it all in as well as part of your SEO plan.