Even those who claim to know next to nothing about online marketing can at least make the connection between SEO and showing up on a Google or Bing search. It probably helps that most of us know SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization.
But, past the fact that good SEO gets you in front of prospects searching for your product or service – what can the average person do to take advantage of SEO? One thing that’s often overlooked is using meta descriptions for your content. These descriptions help determine relevance – but maybe not in the way you might think.
So, just what is a meta description again?
Don’t confuse meta descriptions with meta tags. As HubSpot explains, meta tags help search engines figure out the content of your site, while meta descriptions help users sort out your content. Meta descriptions are basically a synopsis of a piece of content.
Current best practices advise that these descriptions should only be about 160 characters in length. It’s what shows up under each search engine result when you do a search. Sure, Google is pretty smart – but the search giant is not sophisticated enough to read your content or web pages and create a synopsis to describe them. That job is left to you.
And it’s an important job. Because while the description itself isn’t why a search engine is suggesting it to a user, this synopsis lets the user now what they’ll find if they click on the link to check out your content. Successful meta descriptions are like movie trailers in a way. It’s your opportunity – in about 160 characters – to promote your article, infographic, video, or other type of online content. If it’s compelling and accurate, the user will have a high confidence that your content is what they’re looking for.
Earlier we said that meta descriptions really are for the benefit of the user and not the search engine. Moz.com writes that a successful meta description should be an intelligent description of what your content is about. It should definitely use your keywords, but the description must be non-spammy. It also needs to be a unique description. You don’t want a search engine to think it is duplicate content.
Your meta description will not factor into Google’s ranking algorithm. However, a well-crafted meta description that gets people to click on the link definitely will positively impact your ranking.
Do you meta?
Every page and every piece of content on your website should have a meta description. If you aren’t using meta descriptions, you could be hiding from potential customers without even knowing it. Search engines may offer you as a suggestion, but they’ll choose their own snippet of content to show as a description.