No one wants to invest a great deal of effort in writing content for their website only to find out that they’ve made huge mistakes in helping search engines find it. In our work developing websites and helping our clients to improve the optimization of each piece of content on their site, we’ve found there are many common mistakes when business owners try to write their own meta descriptions. In this article, we’ve outlined some of the most common meta description mistakes made and not only how to avoid them but how to publish content Google will want to show off.
What is a Meta Description?
When you search something on Google, the first page shows you the most relevant content to your search. One of the things that contribute to the popularity and relevance of one web page over another is the light grey description below the title and web address, known as the meta description. This text can be a direct quote from the page it references but ideally, the description is a carefully constructed sentence strategically formatted to get the best search results and most clicks.
There’s no law that dictates what you can and can’t put in this area. If you want to write, “this is my page, click here click here, CLICK HERE”, you absolutely can. But we guarantee that won’t convince Google to rank you higher when compared to your competitor’s pages. If you want Google to take you seriously, you’ll want to strategically formulate your description.
One of the first things to consider when writing your meta description is the length. There is a limit to the number of characters that your description can contain before Google cuts it off. If you Google anything, you’ll see that half the time, a given description clearly isn’t finished, but Google finished it with an ellipsis.
Whatever the synopsis of your page says, it should be anywhere between 120-158 characters, which if you’re geeky like us, maxes out at 920 pixels.
Just so you know, these and the following words equal 158 characters. When the last word is “stop”, you’ll know that I’ve reached the maximum possible – STOP.
It’s almost nothing! That last “stop” shows exactly what Google does to your sentence. If it’s incomplete it doesn’t matter. So write carefully and pay attention, because we all know how easy it is to ramble.
Think About Your Copy
Now that you know how much to write in your meta description, the next step is to think about content. You only have a limited amount of space, so be sure to maximize it. A common mistake we see is that the meta description author does not consider their audience.
When you have a customer or a target audience, you want to understand them. You want to know the words that they respond to and use them. If you know the language that makes your audience tick, tailor that language into a readable, clickable phrase.
You don’t have to (and shouldn’t) use big words. Don’t even write out numbers, just use the symbol. In fact, using numbers or symbols in your text catches the eye and can be very useful to convince readers to click on your page rather than someone else’s.
Think about what makes you click on a page. What are the things that convince you to choose it over another? Remember these tips when creating your copy and you should be able to craft a catchy meta description with no problem:
- Talk to your customer
- Use compelling phrases (calls to action)
- Use numbers/symbols
- Keep it simple
Don’t Try to Trick Google
Some people think they can pull one over on Google. Let’s face it, Google is smarter than all of us. Let’s not anger the A.I., shall we?
When writing your meta description, keep it similar to the content of your page. Sometimes people try to write a description that’s catchy but not really relevant to lure visitors to their site, but what they may not realize is that Google knows. Google always knows. It’s kind of like Santa in that regard. If you’re strategically honest, Google will reward you, but if you’re bad, it’ll give you coal in the form of hiding your website on page 100. So just don’t do it.
A big mistake people inadvertently make is not utilizing keywords to their full advantage. If you have a blog post or a page that serves a specific purpose, it’s guaranteed to have keywords, even if you haven’t ranked for them yet.
If you have a blog about ways to lose weight, a keyword could be “weight loss”. Try to choose specific keywords based on your existing content to strategically amp up each page’s optimization through the meta description.
Just because you can copy a meta description that you’ve already written, doesn’t mean that you should. Some people think that if one description is really good, it’ll be good for multiple pages. Not true. You’re just being lazy and not doing yourself any favors by having similar or repeated messages across pages on your website. By having variety, your pages will more likely come up in different searches, rather than all showing up at once.
In the end, there are many simple mistakes you can make when writing a meta description. The good news is that there are also simple solutions. If you pay attention to your audience, your content, and your keywords, you’ll be writing tantalizing meta descriptions in no time. For more tips and tricks on optimizing your website, visit our blog or better yet, talk to a Spyder.