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Quick and Easy SEO Tips – Meta Descriptions

Posted by on November 19, 2008

This is part of a series of posts for various quick and easy SEO tips.  A few days ago I wrote, “quick and easy seo tips – title tags,” today we are going to cover meta descriptions.  Meta descriptions are actually quite important because they are among the first thing a user sees when deciding on whether or not to click over to your site.  Again I am going to make my small disclaimer by saying that this whole site is going through a redesign so several of my SEO elements are not optimized (just in case you wanted to let me know).  Let’s get into it.

Meta Descriptions

I’m sure many of you know what a meta description is.  It’s that small snippet of information you see in the search results under the title of the search results.  This is what the meta description looks like:

Did you spot the title tag in there?  Remember I talked about that a few days ago.  The meta description is all that text you see below the title tag.  Now as I mentioned for title tags, all of your meta descriptions should be unique and hopefully describe the content on the page.  Think of it as a movie trailer before the main attraction.  You want the trailer to be enticing, relevant, unique, and short and sweet.  Some of the common mistakes companies and individuals make when it comes to create meta descriptions are leaving this field blank, keyword stuffing, or using identical meta descriptions for all the pages.

Leaving the description blanks means that the search engine automatically generates a meta description for you which may or may not target your audience and in some cases may or may not make any sense!

Look at the following meta descriptions.  The first site doesn’t have a CREATED meta description so Google made one for the site and as you can see it’s not very good.  The content is pretty much nonsense.  There is nothing enticing about it and I have no idea what I’m going to see if I click on the link.

I decided to use my home page meta description as an example.  My description clearly explains what the site is about and what you are going to see when you click on the link.  My title and description will change soon though, once my new site design is completed but for now you should get the picture.

Things to keep in mind when creating meta descriptions:

  • Try to keep the meta description to at most 150 characters (google can display up to 160) otherwise search engines will truncate it and add a “…” at the end of the description.
  • Make sure your meta description stays relevant with your title, meaning if your title says the page is about “shoes” and your description is about “cookies” then something isn’t right.
  • Your description should further elaborate on your title.  So again, think of it like the title for a movie with the trailer.  The title has keywords and gives you a general idea of what to expect, the meta description adds a bit more information and detail to support the title.
  • If you include keywords from your title in the meta description then they will show up bolded in the description.  For example if you search for “Jacob Morgan” you will see that “Jacob Morgan” is bolded in the description.  This just calls the users attention to the keywords and may slightly improve conversions.

  • Take a look at some of the other meta descriptions that are created for your industry (competing or related sites), try to sound UNLIKE them so that your page stands out when users are looking through the search listings.  Get a look for what their tone is and what keywords they are going after.
  • Remember to create a unique meta description for all of your pages, each page on your site talks about something different and should thus have a unique title tag and description.

As in the title tags example, let’s say you run a discount computer and computer parts store.  The sample tile tag we created was:

“discount computers and computer parts | company name”

So now let’s create a meta description to go along with that title.  Something like:

“At Jacob’s store we offer quality discount computers and computer parts for popular models such as Dell, Toshiba, and IBM. Check out our specials!”

This meta description is 146 characters long, has a call to action, is enticing, and tells the users exactly what they need to know so that they can decide if the page is relevant to them and worth clicking on.

Again, as in the title tags example let’s say you have an internal page for only Dell computers and Dell parts. The sample title tag we created was:

” buy discount dell computers and dell parts and accessories | company name.”

So what would a matching meta description be?

Something like this:

Are you looking to buy a discount dell computer or dell accessory? Jacob’s store offers high quality products at affordable prices, check us out!

Hopefully you are starting to understand the process and the idea behind creating solid meta descriptions.  If you have any questions feel free to ask me.

Dangers of not creating proper meta descriptions

  • Not capturing the traffic from your audience.  If you rank well for your target keyword or phrase yet your meta description turns users off, then you may losing on targeted traffic.
  • Creating identical title tags confuses users (and yes even search engines to some extent) so they won’t be able to determine the most relevant page to click on.
  • Creating descriptions that don’t accurately describe or explain the content on the site may result in users visiting your site and then leaving immediately because they weren’t able to find what they were looking for.  When a user visits your site and quickly leaves, this is called a “bounce rate.”

Hopefully this gave you a solid understanding of what meta descriptions are, how to make them, what to consider when making them, and the dangers of not creating proper meta descriptions.  If you have any questions, ask!

thanks for reading and be sure to check out the previous post on creating title tags.

  • Very good advice. I've seen million dollar companies with great websites, but they looked incredibly ugly in a google search because they didn't use meta tags. It takes about 5 minutes to do and makes a HUGE difference in search results. Great post.

    • ive seen many of those. i used to work with these multi million dollar companies to fix many of their seo issues. implementation time with a large company is just a nightmare though!

      thanks for the comment

  • Hey Jacob,
    Very clearly and concisely stated. Great job. Stumbled. 🙂
    Dali Burgado

    • thanks im glad you think so. i was definitely going for easy, clear, and concise.

      thanks for the stumble!

  • keep active to find quality and quantity of backlinks. sometimes meta description have nothing to do with our SERPs. cmiiw

  • ravm

    Thanks for the search engine ranking tips. These SEO Videos go into some detail about meta tags, H1 tags and other onsite SEO tips.

  • ravm

    Thanks for the search engine ranking tips. These SEO Videos go into some detail about meta tags, H1 tags and other onsite SEO tips.