If you’ve been a student of an older SEO school of thought, you’ve probably been taught meta descriptions are vital to ranking success. We hate to burst your bubble, but it now appears metas have very little – if any – effect on ranking.
If the meta description doesn’t help your SEO efforts, why bother?
On the surface, meta descriptions don’t directly affect SEO. But when you dig a little deeper, you’ll see there’s more to the story. Their indirect help makes them well worth the effort.
It’s All About the Clicks
Meta descriptions appear in several different places.
If someone shares one of your articles on Facebook, for example, your meta description will show up. That’s assuming you’re using one, of course. If you’re not, then the first few lines of your content will show up instead. Meta descriptions will allow you to provide a more consistent social media presence, which is helpful in gaining click-throughs and building an audience.
Of course, meta descriptions will also be displayed in your search results on Google, Yahoo!, Bing and other search engines. Again, this provides you with another opportunity to exercise greater control over the information you are publicly displaying.
The bottom line: while meta descriptions won’t get you to the top of a search engine’s results page, it plays a major role in convincing searchers to actually visit your site.
Make It Work
Unfortunately, creating a meta description just for the sake of having one won’t do you any good. It has to be well thought out in order to be effective. Remember, these few words can have a powerful influence, but only if the right words are chosen.
Your meta description needs to be extremely clear. If there is any chance of misinterpretation, you haven’t done your job. Keep in mind, most readers are only scanning, so you have to get their attention in a few seconds.
Use your keywords.
While this won’t help your search engine rankings, it will capture attention. People choose certain keywords because it reflects the language they use. When you write in the language of your target audience, you’re in a much better position to pique their interest.
Don’t rely on assumptions.
This is, perhaps, the most important advice of all. A/B test your meta descriptions until you are absolutely sure you’re going to get the results you need. Relying on guesswork is the easy way out, and the easy way out is rarely the path to success.
Another Tool at Your Disposal
Always keep in mind that the competition for Web site traffic is brutal. Fresh content is being posted every second, and all authors want readers. You can’t afford to pass over anything that might give you an edge.
Think of meta descriptions as a small but important detail. No, it won’t guarantee a number one ranking on the first page of Google. In fact, it doesn’t guarantee anything. But a properly executed meta description can certainly be a difference maker.
About the Author
Ted Lamphere works for Subtle Network Design & Marketing, a Clearwater SEO firm. He enjoys researching and testing new SEO techniques. When he isn’t helping his Clearwater SEO clients, Ted is probably working on his latest eBook, listening to the Red Hot Chili Peppers or walking his dog at the park.