Are Meta Descriptions Hurting Traffic To Your Website?
Meta descriptions are those little blurbs that appear in Google search (or Bing if you’re weird and use that).
In December 2017, Google upped the character limit to 320 and it left me wondering, “do I need to update my client’s meta descriptions?” This thought snowballed into a series of questions around meta descriptions followed by a lot of Google searches and researching. What I found out was:
- They’re important
- Character length matters depending on the article you read
- Meta descriptions affect click-throughs
- How to write an effective meta description
Meta Descriptions Are Important
This is your outdoor company’s last chance to get people to your site. Google pulls in thousands of search results for outdoor products and services so you need to stand out.
We had a client who wanted to improve their SEO. We ran a web analysis on their site and while there were several things we needed to fix, we noticed they had zero meta descriptions for their products. I chatted with our content creation specialist and we decided to create meta descriptions for each page on the site. We knew it’d be timely but I gave her a tight budget to stick to. She worked her tail off and updated all the meta descriptions and then we waited. Within a month, we saw huge improvements on Google Search. I can’t attribute all the success to updating the meta descriptions but we found more people were clicking on the links because they provided an accurate depiction of the product.
If I had a nickel for everytime Google changed their algorithm I’d be living on a boat with my wife and daughters fishing all day. So when Google changed the meta description character length to 320 I placed another nickel in the jar I keep next to my desk. I don’t actually do this but maybe I should start because as I was writing this blog post, Google went back to 160 characters!
Then, I started researching. Moz is an SEO tool we use for our clients and they wrote an in-depth blog post on how many words you should include in your meta description. And instead of boring you with all the details, I’ll just tell you that 150-160 characters are the sweet spot. And the fact that Google reverted back to shorter meta descriptions.
So to answer my first question, “do I need to update my client’s meta descriptions?” No.
Meta descriptions alone won’t affect your SEO rankings but the copy you create can affect how many people click on the link. It’s important to use captivating copy that is relevant to the page. Nobody likes clickbait articles and landing pages so make sure your meta description is accurate.
Another thing to include in the meta description is keywords. When people search for “custom built sprinter van,” Google will highlight those keywords in the meta descriptions in the search.
When Google highlights the keywords I typed into Search, I’m more apt to click on those links than pages that don’t. This again goes back to creating relevant and accurate meta descriptions.
Creating An Effective Meta Description
Meta descriptions are similar to any copy you create that needs to be short, concise, and attention-grabbing. But they can be quite challenging since meta descriptions need to use keywords, encourage clicks, and stand-out. It’s often the first touch your brand has with a new prospect. You only have 160 characters to get people to click on your link so:
- Use action words: The point of the meta description is to get people to click so tell them to click! Or learn, discover, find out, read, experience.
- Use keywords: I mentioned this in the section above but it’s worth noting again. Keywords show that your content is relevant to the person searching. But don’t go overboard. Make sure keywords are used in an authentic and natural way.
- Be accurate: This is worth noting again. Don’t increase your bounce rate on the site by providing inaccurate information. Clickbait articles are tacky and unprofessional and you don’t want potential customers to think that about your business, do you?
- Answer the prospect’s question: Don’t you love it when you type in Google, “family-friendly campsites over Memorial Day,” and the first 5 searches that appear answer your exact question? I do too! So write meta descriptions that do that. Think about what your prospect will be typing in Google and how your site can provide value to their search.
Stop Hurting Traffic To Your Site
Everybody wants more traffic to their website so they can convert, close, and delight. Since Google is always changing their algorithms, one thing we can hold onto is creating engaging and relevant meta descriptions that provide answers and benefits to a prospect’s questions.