Monday, 13 May 2013

Why meta descriptions are a largely undervalued facet of search engine marketing

I have recently been working with our digital marketing team on our content marketing. I have had a fantastic opportunity to work on a variety of projects, both big and small. 

When the team came to ask me if I could do them a big favour and help to write over 400 meta descriptions for our website and blog pages, the strained looks on their faces indicated that they knew that this was hardly a glamourous job. Meta descriptions are simply the short descriptions that appear in search results, they don't actually appear on your website.

Meta description tags can be shown in response to searchers' queries, as pictured.

Meta descriptions don't help with your search engine ranking and therefore are often overlooked. However, if your meta description and title compel people to click on your link you will improve your click through rate (CTR) which will in turn improve your search engine rankings.

Despite this, many people don't bother to write custom meta descriptions as they see it as a waste of time. I must admit, it wasn't the most thrilling of jobs and with other 400 to do it did get a little monotonous at times but I can see huge value in having customised meta descriptions rather than letting the search engine pluck its own from your content.

Here's why I think they are important:

- Good descriptions will improve your click through rate which will subsequently improve your search engine ranking
- Having a good description will mean less people go on to your website and leave straight away when they realise it isn't what they were looking for - again improving your ranking
- It is another opportunity to provide a short sales pitch to your potential customers - don't miss the opportunity

How can you make your meta descriptions better?

  • Use targeted key words - but don't stuff them in there for the hell of it!
  • Communicate the benefits
  • Give viewers a reason to click on your link
  • Don't duplicate descriptions, it will improve user experience (you can find out how many duplicates you have in your webmaster tools)
  • If you have 1000s of pages then at least make sure your home page and most popular pages have unique descriptions
  • There is no character limit but only about 150 to 170 characters will appear in the summary - so keep it short!
  • Stick to plain text - avoid hyphens, plus signs and quotation marks
Meta descriptions may not be the most exciting topic in the world but they are certainly important and I will now be spending the next few weeks ensuring that this blog has customised meta descriptions for each post.