SEO Warning: Don’t take Meta Tags for granted

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Jay Dillon

Director of Strategy and Creative at Inbound Experts
Jay is a digital marketer and producer whose creative and technical skills have developed digital brand strategies and sales campaigns using a range of complex internet applications from stand-alone websites through to Facebook API integrations.
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SS1In a world of growing online business and digital marketing, one thing is still for sure: everyone uses search engines.

It is a given that SEO is not going anywhere anytime soon, so if you want it to work well for your content/business you must embrace it and embrace it well. Especially considering business sales can either rise or fall by thousands based on search engine results. This being said, not only is it vital that we all understand how to write great blog titles, proper URLs, and header tags but just as important is something that many have come to underestimate: meta tag descriptions. This post will focus on one of the most common SEO mistakes businesses have a tendency to make, which is the issue of writing poorly formulated meta descriptions and the importance of improving them.

 
What is a Meta Tag Description?

If you’ve ever searched for something on the web then oh yes, you’ve definitely come across them (and probably, without realising, made your decision to proceed to a site based on them). The meta description is that snippet that appears right below the blue link in Google search. Words that matched the user query get pulled out in bold. Meta tags can be customized quite easily on most platforms.

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There are 3 places each of us see meta descriptions every day, making their proper structure and styling all the more important:

  1. As mentioned before, search engine results.
  2. In social media settings where, when sharing a page of a site, the description shows.
  3. In social bookmarking sites, where similar to social media, meta descriptions are often used with content snippets.

Given that your page title and meta description are what is frequently pulled to form the snippet that appears whenever your pages are listed in search results, the content you include in these areas can play a major role in your ability to attract visitors from the SERPs.

As a general rule, you should aim for the following character limits within each of your meta tags:

  • Page title = No more than 70 characters
  • Meta description = No more than 160 characters
  • Meta keywords = No more than 10 keyword phrases

With this in mind, here are a few important tips on how to optimize your meta tags for both SEO and CTR (click-through rates), and for more visuals we’ve included a few great examples further down:

1.    Include Target Keyword Phrases in a Natural Way.

  • You’ll want to pay special attention to the way your target keyword phrases are included. Just because keyword stuffing has been long overused and devalued doesn’t mean these phrases should not be included…it just means you need to be more strategic and creative about using them.
  • The same goes for your meta description because including your target keywords in this field has the added bonus of causing your phrases to be bolded in the natural search results if a user enters your wording into the search engine. 

2.    Meta Description Should Include a Call to Action.

  • Keep in mind that your title tags and meta descriptions aren’t just fields that you’re optimizing in the hopes of receiving some miraculous SEO boost. Rather, these fields form your snippet in the natural search results, which means that they must be written to be as compelling as possible. Consider the following guidelines:
  • By using a call to action you are asking people to do something and this often results in readers taking the action you requested. So here we may encounter: “Find out how” “Discover how” and “Click here”.
  • Use cliffhangers in your descriptions to encourage viewers to click on through for the full story. Give enough information so that the user can confirm that it will cover what he/she has searched for, but do not give everything away so that there’s no longer a reason for the reader to click through.
  • Write tags for yourself. Meaning, once you’ve come up with a possible meta tag, ask yourself, “Would I click through based on this info?” and if your tags aren’t compelling to you, then they probably won’t be compelling to others. 

3.    Use Action-Oriented Language.

  • This is ideal for call-to-action as well, which is what a meta description essentially is right? So consider starting your descriptions with verbs like, “Learn, Discover, or Grab,” and follow up with specifics of what exactly they’ll get if they click. 

4.    Provide a Solution or Benefit.

  • Inform the searcher of what they can expect by clicking on your link because the last thing anyone wants is to have to click “Back” because what they searched for didn’t match what they expected. Avoid bounce rates and keep the benefits clear and informative.

5.    Don’t Deceive Searches & Make it Specific and Relevant.

  • If your description deceives the reader with content not relevant to what they searched for, expect the “back” button. This will hurt the level of trust the searcher has in your content.
  • The average user nowadays can tell when they come across a predictable, generic meta description when they see it in the SERPs. That is why it is important to use descriptive words and avoid unnecessary fluff. Do your best to serve your target audience in an original way.

***Click here to read the no-no’s of meta descriptions.

In the end, your meta description is a chance to win over prospects for your business. It’s sort of a “short sales pitch” for your website and even though the trend has been to leave this out, don’t miss out on the opportunity to improve click-through rates. Create engaging descriptions for your website that persuades your target audience to choose you.

Here are a few examples of good meta descriptions:

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