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SEO Best Practices: Are Your Meta Descriptions Optimized for SEO?

posted by Michael Epps Utley Michael Epps Utley
an illustration of leaves and stars with an oversize screen in front. small people are sitting and standing around the screen and looking at internet search results. one is pointing to the area where the meta description would be. another is holding a magnifying glass.

Meta descriptions are a crucial part of fine-tuning any web page, blog, or content marketing landing page you create. A well-written meta description improves online marketing and search engine optimization (SEO).

Sometimes called a meta description attribute or tag, the meta description is an HTML element that summarizes what's on that page. When looking at Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), the blue hyperlinked titles in your results list are meta titles, and the brief bit of copy underneath them is the meta description.

Understanding their connection to SEO and content marketing improves results across the board and gets people closer to the exact page they're searching for. Here's what we've learned about the importance of meta descriptions and how we recommend optimizing them.

What to Know About Meta Description Optimization

Meta Descriptions Are Critical to SEO

Meta descriptions go hand-in-hand with SEO because:

  • They can impact your CTR (click-through-rate) on Google, which may improve your SERP placement.

  • If a user's search query includes keywords that are in your meta description, those words will be bolded in the meta description. They'll know your content is relevant, and be more likely to land on your site.

  • They're organic ad text for your brand. When your ad ranks for a keyword, search engines often show a meta description as a summary for the page.

Optimizing your meta descriptions is a small step toward a big improvement in SEO. As a digital marketing agency, we use some tried and true best practices to help them stand out.

Create Unique Copy

Making a meta description unique is important because its whole purpose is to show the search engine user how highly relevant one page from your site can be to their exact search query.

If you're creating or revamping a large number of similar pages that have duplicate meta descriptions or no meta descriptions, making small copy edits can keep you from putting duplicate or unclear meta content online. Going forward, creating a unique meta description as you're writing the copy for new pages helps keep it truly unique and as pertinent to what your ideal audience is looking for as possible.

Include Strong Keywords

Meta descriptions are one of the many places you can include high-value keywords, so potential customers know you have what they're looking for. When choosing and using meta description keywords:

  • Rely on Data: Use SEO keyword tools to identify keywords you want to rank for, including keywords your competitors rank for, rather than guessing and missing the mark.

  • Stay on Topic: Don't use keywords you want to rank for that have nothing to do with what the page is about. That'll only lead to a higher bounce rate. Choose a couple of relevant product, service, or industry keywords to include in each meta description you write.

  • Mention Your Brand: Meta descriptions can be a great place to use branded keywords. Make it a regular practice to include your company name, or names of relevant, proprietary products and services, in meta descriptions you create so you can rank better in branded searches over time.

  • Call People to Action: A brief call to action is helpful in meta description content. Rather than being "sales-y", it can be a hint that there's more to do, or more action to take, on the landing page. Something as simple as "see how our team made a difference this month" or "get your marketing guide" can go a long way toward getting people interested.

Bonus Points: Watch for Length Guidelines

How long your meta description is varies according to the current best practices, which are typically defined by what Google prioritizes. MRS Digital reports that the ideal meta description length is 920 pixels, or about 158 characters on average. If your meta description goes beyond that range, Google shortens it to the nearest word and adds an ellipsis.

Since you don't want any important keywords or information to be out of sight for the user, we recommend fitting the complete meta description into 155 characters. The easiest way to do this is to create each description in a character counter, so you know before publishing content that your description won't go over Google's preferred description length.

Guidelines change frequently. Someone in your digital marketing agency or in-house team should monitor best practices for meta content. Track changes and implement them quickly as part of your content marketing plan to avoid site performance issues or drops in rank.

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