Meta Descriptions Guide for Dummies: What, Why and How

Meta Descriptions are an under-utilized component of every web page.

It's a small addition (156 characters) that isn't required to publish a page. As a matter of fact, if you don't set a custom Meta Description, Google does it automatically from text on the page. Which is usually the worst thing that could possibly happen!

Poor Meta Descriptions could be killing your organic traffic.

After reading this post, you'll not only understand the importance of the Meta Description, but how to hit home runs with it every time.

Why Are Meta Descriptions Important?

Many regard the Meta as a relic, having been dropped by Google as a standard for search engine optimization. Others just don't understand it or believe they could be penalized for keyword stuffing if they use it.

The truth is that the Meta Description still holds tremendous value. While it's true that Google doesn't consider the Meta Description copy in its algorithm, it is still one of the three most important on-page SEO items of every page.

What is the Meta Description?

The Meta Description is a short preview of the copy of a page that has ranked for a search.


The Purpose of the Meta Description

The Meta Description's single purpose is to sell the click.

While the headline of your page or blog post is the highest priority, the Meta Description is probably second in importance. When someone performs a Google search, their eyes look at headlines first, and then give a quick read to the Meta Description.

If the Meta Description is not enticing, or worse, if it doesn't even make sense, the click-through-rate (CTR) of your ranking page will go down. If you rank #1 for a search term, but more searchers are skipping your result and clicking on results below you, your ranking will soon fall below theirs.

So yes, it impacts SEO performance, but in an indirect way.

How to Write a Compelling Meta Description

One of the best formats we have found is to ask a question, then start the answer that gets interrupted for a cliff hanger. For instance, the Meta Description of this post is:

Why are Meta Descriptions so darn important? They have an enormous impact on your ability to stay at the top of SERPS and if you...
  • Keep it below 156 characters to avoid truncation
  • Front load the key subject to catch readers attention
  • Be Truthful; the Meta should match the content
  • Don't overload keywords

What To Do Now

Go back and take a look at your existing blog articles and website pages. Start by using an external platform to analyze existing Meta Descriptions. My favorite tool to do this is Screaming Frog, but you can also use Open Site Explorer and several others.

Analyze the current Meta Descriptions for each page and look for ones that can, and should, be improved. Consider this the lede of each page, and make it as compelling as possible.

Remember, the entire purpose of this micro-copy is to make people want to click on your title. If you get it right, your search engine rankings will be much more secure.

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