How to create the right meta description
Yet another post about meta descriptions, I hear you think. Still, this is one of the issues that we often get support questions about after doing a site review. The thing is that everyone gets the idea, but little of us actually take the time to write a proper meta description for your article of page. Where to start? What’s right and wrong? In this post, I will try to explain our approach towards meta descriptions.
First, lets be clear about the function of a meta description for your page. Its main purpose is to get the visitor in Google to click your link. In other words, meta descriptions are for generating clickthroughs from search engines. For SEO, it holds little value. I’m not saying NO value, as a meta description can influence bounce rate, for instance if it doesn’t match the text on your page. More on that later.
Characteristics of a good meta description
I think every article on meta descriptions will tell you some of these, but I combined all that made sense to me and came up with this list.
Adding the date to the snippet preview
We often get questions about this. The option ‘Show date in snippet preview?’ at Titles and Metas in our WordPress SEO plugin doesn’t add the date to the description in Google. It just adds it in the snippet preview in our plugin itself.
It will help you decide on the right length of your meta description. Check that option if you find Google adding the publish date to your articles.
Visit Google Webmaster Tools > HTML Improvements or use Screaming Frog SEO Spider to check for duplicate meta descriptions.
Examples of a good meta description
In the preparation for this post, I have checked some of the various articles that mention meta descriptions. I found a lot of wisdom, but almost no examples. I think actual examples will make it easier for you to construct a proper meta description for yourself. Taking the 6 bullet points above in account, let’s go over some examples.
The right length
Personally, I like my meta descriptions like this. Dated and two lines of text.
Over 250 characters
Note that the actual meta description inserted in that page was only 76 characters and Google probably decided not to use it for that reason.
In an active voice
Get WordPress SEO Premium. Nuf said.
Including a call-to-action
There’s two, actually. ‘Learn more now’ and the site link ‘Buy Now $ 399.00′. Both entice that click.
Including structured content
8 MP Camera, that’s what I wanted to know. I don’t need that sales text here, I just want that phone.
Containing the focus keyword
And variations. Note that Google highlights Academy Awards as well when searching for Oscars. This will make your search result stand out even more.
Where to start, I have so many pages?
Feel like changing all the meta descriptions after reading this? That might be a burden, with all the pages you have. And where would you find the time for that? Google actually answers this:
If you don’t have time to create a description for every single page, try to prioritize your content: At the very least, create a description for the critical URLs like your home page and popular pages.
Simply take it from there. And be sure to optimize all new meta descriptions from now on.
Troubleshooting meta descriptions
I’m sure you can come up with more, but I came up with two main issues:
section. Or check the option in WordPress SEO > Titles & Metas, of course. I’m not sure if Yahoo! Directory (noydir in the robots meta tag) still has a role in this.
Show me yours
I am really looking forward to the best meta description you have created, or cases where you are totally in the dark about what to add to that page – please drop me a note in the comments and I’d be happy to give it a shot.
This post first appeared on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!