Meta descriptions certainly aren’t the part of search engine optimization that stresses you into biting your nails. But those 150 characters have more potential than you might think.
Justification enough for an article on the topic can be found, for example, in these really bad meta descriptions. So, let’s just make them a little better.
Meta descriptions are part of a website’s meta tags. Search engines can read the description and thus learn more about the contents of a website. But the meta description can do even more:
1. Use of branding effects: The description is one of the first elements of your website that a user will see in the search results. If someone doesn’t know your online shop or your website, he or she will gain a first impression of your offerings in these 155 characters. The quality of the description reflects on you and your company. So, look at it as a part of your branding.
2. Call to action and increase the CTR: A sensible and appealing meta description can lead to increased attention for your snippet. This means that users might even click on a lower ranking site if the description speaks to them, makes them curious, and encourages them to click.
3. Strengthening of corporate identity: In the description, you can communicate how your company sees itself. Wording and tonality can transmit your company’s philosophy.
These two examples show that even large brands neglect their descriptions. How not to do it:
Figure 2: Meta description of Calvin Klein
Figure 3: Meta description of Adidas
A good meta description is based on the same basic elements of every promotional text:
Define your customer’s problem: In this part, you show the customer that you understand their perspective and their need.
Offer a solution: Here, you can recommend the appropriate products or services. Relevant keywords can also be placed here.
A result describing the solution in greater detail and speaking to the user’s emotion: Herein lies the difference between good and great meta descriptions. In this part, you show the user what your solution will look and feel like. This part can also contain a call to action, inviting the user to do something specific.
In this video on evolving SEO, this connection is explained in more detail.
Video: "Meta Descriptions - How To Improve Them For Your Brand" (Source)
Last year, we reported about extended meta descriptions and titles in OnPage Magazine. But the big unveil still hasn’t happened. Google still seems to be testing various lengths of meta descriptions. In the SERPs, for example, you can find descriptive texts with more than 200 characters.
Figure 4: Description in the snippet with 220 characters including empty characters.
If a description is too long, it will be truncated in a desktop search. A length of 175 characters is currently recommended (status as of: February 2017), including empty characters. So, you need to present the problem, the solution, and the look and feel of the solution within this framework.
The free snippet optimizer from OnPage.org can help you create your meta description. You can immediately see how your description text will appear in the search results and perfectly optimize them.
OnPage.org Zoom offers a continuous character-length check. In one graphic, the report "Description - Length" shows you all the descriptions that are too long. Use this list to practice improvements
Figure 5: Check the length of the description with OnPage.org.
There is another possibility for making the snippet into a "rich snippet" other than just the pure text of the perfect description. Rich snippets are an expanded form of snippet that can also contain other elements, such as rating stars, links, figures, price information, and other types of information.
The corresponding content must be marked in the source code of the target site so that Google can also show this data. Today these markups are stored according to the current standard for micro-formats. You will find all the possibilities for the HTML code designation on the site "schema.org", an initiative by the large search engine providers for markups.
Using structured data to expand the description, the snippet will not only better stand out, it can also offer the user additional benefits.
Figure 6: Rating stars in a "rich snippet".
There is no guarantee that Google will use the markups in the snippet. With the structured data-testing tool, you can see whether the markup you have implemented will actually work. You can enter a URL as well as an HTML code with this tool.
You can offer the search engine the following elements of your website as structured data:
Snapchat is not only a messaging app (product) but also lets you talk with your friends (outcome).
Airbnb uses an emotional text to reach customers.
The site links search box guides the customers directly into the SERPs. In this guide, you can see how it is done.
In this example, the customer obtains information on customer rating and the price via the snippet, thanks to markups. If he wants to buy the product, the user immediately knows that clicking here will be worth it.
A practical example with a dynamically generated description that uses the current date and shows future events with markups. In this way, the snippet is not taller and thus more noticeable, but also offers a very practical added value.
Someone interested in spaetzle will find an emotional response, as well as an appealing image, rating, and the number of reviews in this description. It also tells you how long the preparation time is.
Even if the text of the description is not optimized, this rich snippet offers a plethora of information for the user. And, the snippet gains two additional rows, thanks to the markups.
Even large brands often use uninspired and ineffective descriptions. Of course, these brands already get a lot of traffic and therefore the description text isn’t as critical. But, even small text elements like the description can bring users the kind of feeling a conventional advertising campaign cannot.
For less well-known online shops and websites, it is therefore imperative to strive for high-quality descriptions. In the end, they are a part of your brand’s reputation and can generate many more clicks.
Published on 03/10/2017 by Eva Wagner.
Eva is an experienced content marketer. Until May 2018 she was a member of online marketing team at Ryte. Using her creativity and the knowledge of current topics, she was responsible for the German Ryte Magazine and the Ryte Wiki. She also organized Ryte’s presence at major trade fairs such as the dmexco in Cologne.