Why do meta and SEO keywords matter? Because they explain to search engines what your page is about. That's why whenever you build your own website, you need to know a little bit about meta tags. Since it will truly help your search engine optimization. Yes, there are a million tricks and tips when it comes to SEO. But this basic strategy I'm going to share with you, is something that most people overlook. Which is why you need to make sure that you cover all the basics whenever you optimize your site - it's essential! However, you also need to lay the groundwork for more complex SEO strategies down the road.
WHAT ARE META TAGS?
Meta tags are nothing more than bits of code that you use in the back end of your web page. This code allows browsers and search engines know how the should display and handle your page. Search engines also use tags to explain what the page is about. If you have ever wondered how you get the descriptions under the title of a website in Google Search, that's how! But you should know that there are two forms of meta that matter the most: Meta title and Meta description.
Whenever you look at a page tab in your browser and you're on a website, you'll see the meta title. It's right next to a favicon (or small image unique to each individual website). Normally the meta title is taken from the first heading on the page. It is the most concise and accurate description of what your website is all about. Keep this in mind, try to keep your meta title under 55 characters. Otherwise it might be too long for search engines.
Meta descriptions are a 160 character snippet in HTML. It is an extremely useful because they tell search engines what your page is about. However when you customize your meta description Google doesn't always show the exact description to searchers. Sometimes it choose snippets from your page's content instead. The good and bad news is that this particular meta tag doesn't influence how you rank on Google. So if Google decides that it wants to include a snippet that you didn't choose, you rankings won't go down.
WHY META MATTERS
Meta does matter - even though the meta description doesn't influence how you rank on Google results. You should still take the time to craft this simple 2-liner. Take the time and truly think about what your target audience will want to see there. It's your opportunity to influence them and make them want to head to your site.
- Are there any specific keywords they might search for?
- Is there something that your potential customer be intrigued by?
- How do you solve a problem they might have?
- What can your site offer them?
Utilize this space to give a true preview of what you offer. That way you can turn someone who is just searching into someone who actually clicks on to your site.
Whenever you build a website for the first (second or third) time, metas are something that most people ignore. Simply because they don't understand how useful they can be. You already know you have control over how you want your site to look. So why not use meta tags as a way to exercise the same control on search engines? It's easy, especially when you view these tags are keywords.
It's natural for any business with a website to want their results to appear at the top of search results. Especially when you consider all the potential customers. But there can be a lot of confusion when it comes down to it. How can you achieve it? Is it hard? What do I put? Trust me, there are ways to really pack a punch with SEO and meta. It all comes down to the right keywords.
WHAT DOES A META DESCRIPTION DO?
The meta description is an HTML tag, which looks like this:
<meta name="description" content="A page's specific description, usually one or two sentences."/>
The main function of the meta description for you page is simple: to get the visitor from Google to click your link. In other words, meta descriptions are there to generate clicks from search engines to your site.
However most search engines say that there is no direct benefit from the search engines in terms of ranking. Mainly because they don't use it in their algorithm. Although there is a direct benefit: Google uses click-through-rate (CTR) as a way to determine whether or not you're a good result. Therefore if more people click your result than the search engine expected, based on your position, the move you up. This is why the meta description is so important as a way to optimize your titles.
CHARACTERISTICS OF A GOOD META DESCRIPTION
- It should be around 135-160 characters. Keep in mind there isn't a magic number when it comes to meta descriptions. For the most part, it depends on what Google adds to your search result and how much they want to show. For example, Google might add the date to an article. As a result, it will reduce the number of characters. Bear in mind that the rule of thumb is usually 135 characters and it's usually fine. However, some meta descriptions go way over and max out around 250 characters. Shoot for a goal of 160.
- The description should be actionable. Use an active voice. Think of it this way, the meta description is essentially an invitation to your website. You can't make it some mixed metaphor. That's a dull description and it won't do anything for you.
- It should include a call-to-action (CTA). Mention that they can find out more. Be sure to use an active voice. It's your sales text, where your product is the page that is linked, not the product on the page. Use call-to-actions like learn more, get it now, try it free, etc. You can really increase your engagement, if you do it right.
- It can include structured content. If you have a product for the tech-savvy, focus on the techie specs of the product. For example, you could include the manufacturer, SKU, price, etc. If the visitor is knows what they're looking for, you won't have to convince them. Things like a price will really make it click.
- It should match the content. This is really important. If Google finds a meta description that trick the visitor to click, it might penalize the site that created it. As a result, it might even increase the bounce rate. So bottom line, don't trick the visitor. You want the meta description to match the content on the page.
- It should contain the focus keyword. If the search keyword matches the text in the meta description, Google will more than likely use that meta description. They will even highlight it in the search results. As a result, it will make the link more related
- The meta description should be unique. If your meta description is a duplicate, the user experience in Google will be lower. Although page titles might vary, all pages seem the same as all descriptions are equal. If you intentionally want to create a duplicate meta description, you should leave the description empty. Instead let Google pick a snippet from the page that contains the keyword in a search. You can visit Google Webmaster Tools > HTML Improvements or use Screaming Frog SEO Spider to check for duplicate meta descriptions.
WHERE TO START WHEN YOU HAVE A LOT OF PAGES
Before you go ahead and change all the meta descriptions, know that it might actually be a burden. Especially if you have a lot of pages. It's going to take a lot of time. However, Google actually has an answer for this:
If you don’t have time to create a description for every single page, try to prioritize your content. At the very least, create a description for the critical URLs like your home page and popular pages.
Simply take it from there. However, be sure to optimize all new meta descriptions from now on.
TROUBLESHOOTING META DESCRIPTIONS
Here are a two issues you might run into (though I'm sure there are more):
- My meta description isn’t showing.
Google probably made something up for you, as they feel the meta description you created isn’t representing the content of the page, or is duplicate, for instance.
- I want to use another description for social sharing.
Add OpenGraph tags or Twitter Cards to your website and use any description you want.
Hopefully this helps you!
Are you familiar with meta descriptions? Let us know in the comments below.