Meta descriptions are a crucial part of a non-profit’s SEO strategy. The meta description is often the deciding factor for whether or not someone clicks on your result in a search engine results page (SERP). As a result, you can improve your SERPs and bring more traffic to your site by optimizing your meta descriptions. This will also make it easier for searchers from various devices to understand what they’ll find if they click through to your website.
Here are some ways that non-profits can optimize their meta descriptions and stand out in the search results:
- Include keywords.
Your meta description should include descriptive keywords that accurately describe what will be shown on the page when someone clicks through to it. Optimizing this portion of web content is particularly important for SEO purposes because Google and other search engines view the meta description as a preview of what to expect when someone lands on your site.
To use our example from earlier (turtle care), include the following keywords in your:
- Choose SEO-friendly keywords
- Include keywords in your meta description
- Use lengthy and keyword-dense titles for posts
Meta Description Tags Meta description tags are not the most crucial element for on-page SEO, but they still get a lot of attention from search engine bots. Contrary to popular belief, meta tag optimization is not as important as it used to be since Google stopped using it as a ranking factor. However, you should optimize them because meta descriptions will look great in browser tabs and can impact your click-through rates. This section will introduce you to the concept of meta tags and give you some valuable tips that you can use when writing your pages.
Meta data in HTML or XHTML documents is written
- Provide a call-to-action
Meta descriptions serve multiple purposes. In addition to providing a preview of the contents of your page, meta tags are also an opportunity for you to tell users what to do once they click on your SERP result. This is why your meta description must be compelling enough so that people want to click on your link. Varying the length and format of your information can give visitors a reason to choose your site over others in search results.
You might consider including links.
- Use relevant keywords
- Include key phrases in URLs
With regards to SEO, our previous article on how long should a blog post have already covered some aspects nicely: ” Longer pieces tend to perform better overall, both in terms of search engine rankings and long-term visitor engagement. In addition, our data shows that posts over 2,000 words perform particularly well (and they also tend to get shared more often). In short, don’t be afraid of long content. Long-form content might make you stand out in the news feed, and it can give visitors a more engaging experience.”
If you are wondering what’s an ideal post length for your blog or website: our findings suggest that posts between 1,500 and 2,200 words perform best. However, if you already know that “longer pieces tend to perform better overall,” there might not be any added value in creating lengthy content. What matters is that your readers understand your message. So if they have to read a few lines more or less, what difference does this make? It all depends on what kind of approach is appropriate for the subject matter at hand. We want to avoid both
- Use descriptive filenames
Another thing that you can do to optimize your meta descriptions is to create files with relevant names. The name of the file may be longer than the meta description itself, but it seems like search engines still index them. If you have just a few pages, using keywords in URLs won’t make much sense because this will only result in excessive and unnecessary keyword stuffing. However, if you are running a more significant site with tens or hundreds of thousands of pages, using descriptive filenames will serve two purposes: give people an idea about what they’ll find on each page and improve your SEO rankings. So use valuable words (keywords) when naming web files, don’t overdo it, though. For example, instead of calling your page about Apple: “The best apple pie recipe ever,” you may want to name it “Apple Pie Recipe.” The latter is more descriptive, so it will help both visitors and search engines find what they are looking for. Just make sure that your filenames don’t exceed the maximum allowed length (61 characters) – otherwise, you’ll have a bunch of truncated keywords, and nobody wants that!
- Be concise but informative
Meta descriptions also have an impact on user experience. They can be one of the primary sources of information that people use to decide whether or not they should click on a result in search results pages. Therefore, it would be best if you stood out from the crowd to get your message across. However, keep in mind that meta descriptions are usually limited to 160 characters (although there is no official character limit). This means that you’ll have to be very concise and make sure that your keywords are placed wisely – don’t repeat them unnecessarily, or you might end up with a significant amount of irrelevant characters.
Keep in mind that Google only shows about 158 characters on their search result pages – the last 2-3 words will go undetected by Google but might still be indexed as meta description. However, on Yahoo! Search results pages, the meta description is not displayed at all. Since most people use Google to search for finding information, we suggest limiting your meta description length to 160 characters. In this way, you’ll be able to ensure that your full description is shown by Google’s search engine, and you might even get a few more characters than what you would if the meta description character limit was limited to 158.
What is a meta description?
The meta description (sometimes called the meta description attribute, or simply meta desc), often referred to as metadata, gives search engines and visitors a quick preview of what the page is about. It’s the textual content beneath a page-summaries. Written to inform search engines and internet searchers (in a prompt fashion) what the website is about. In short, it’s like an ad for your website on that specific page. Since most people don’t read entire web pages when they visit them (instead of scanning for keywords that reflect what they’re looking for), you have to make sure to include both relevant words AND the number of words in the meta description – which can be anywhere from 2-15 words long. So if you want someone who’s searching for a good graphic design company near me, you need to include both of those terms in your meta description.
Most people don’t read entire web pages – instead of scanning for keywords that reflect what they’re looking for.
When someone clicks a search result, the meta description can be one of the deciding factors on whether your content is relevant to what they are looking for. This is especially true if many pages rank for the same keyword. The meta description is often used as an ad by web admins and SEOs alike, which could influence users in their decision to click through on a search engine results page (SERP). Meta descriptions are also helpful for people searching on Google or Bing who may click a result based simply on the strength of its meta description – just like with ads – without ever visiting the site itself!
A good meta description makes people want to click through, while a bad one encourages them to move along.
Another vital role that meta descriptions play is that search engines often use them to pull up relevant pages for a search query. This is because the meta description can tell search engines what your page is about, and they’ll use it as the snippet for your site in SERPs if you have no meta title or description tags.
In this article, we’ll go over why meta descriptions are essential (both from an SEO perspective and a user experience one). Then I’ll show you how to create meta descriptions that get both sets of users (human and Google) clicking through!
Why meta descriptions matter: user AND Google search results
A common misconception among SEOs is that metadata doesn’t matter – but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Meta descriptions are much more important today than they were a few years ago. Today, metadata depends on factors such as copywriting, keywords, and keyword placement – it can make or break your content’s chances of ranking in the SERPs.
When someone searches for something, and you want to show up in their search query results for that specific term – what do you think they’re looking at exactly? Most users aren’t just searching for one word (though some might be), but rather combinations of words – phrases, even! To rank well in search engines like Google, you need to use those exact phrases that searchers use in conjunction with your targeted keywords. This is where meta description copywriting comes into play. The meta description is one of the essential parts of your SEO strategy because it will be used in search engine results and social media posts, should you ever decide to share links. If you use a meta description that’s too generic or irrelevant, then people who click on your result won’t be satisfied with what they’re about to see – and no matter how much money you spent on the ad (your site) when users aren’t happy, they leave.
In short: a lousy meta description = wasted time and money!
Wrong copywriting and keyword placement can turn exemplary visitors away from your page. And if those visitors don’t like what they see in SERPs after clicking through, they’ll never come back – PERIOD. So, you need to make SURE that your meta description is focused on the right kind of keywords.
In addition, meta descriptions can and often will be used by search engines in SERPs if there are no title or description tags for a page. Google is somewhat infamous for displaying meta descriptions from other sites alongside website listings – BUT this doesn’t mean they’re using them in any “official” capacity! As we’ll see later in this article, it’s crucial to ensure that your meta description stays consistent with what appears as a snippet (site navigation) in SERPs – regardless of whether or not Google chooses to pull content from another site for display on their listings.
These snippets were pulled in May of 2020, and it’s unclear if Google is using them over the individual metadata for these pages. If you’d like to see how your website looks in SERPs, use this tool to check out your SERP previews or just search for something specific that I’d imagine you’d want to show up for!
In addition to writing keyword-rich descriptions, another thing you can do is optimize your meta title tag. But how does one do that? The following section will give you a few tips on optimizing titles and other essential meta tag elements (like descriptions). So let’s get started!
Creating great content starts with a solid SEO foundation
The first thing you need to know about meta descriptions is that they have a character count limit: 255 characters, to be precise. Distilled’s recent article on meta titles indicates that Google SERPs will display somewhere between 160 and 180 characters of your meta title – not all 255 like most sources claim.
Note how in the SERP preview below, both titles are the same size, and only one site has their full meta description displayed; it’s safe to say we’re looking at 160 characters for the shortest version here. This isn’t a huge deal, but it does mean you should try to fit as much valuable/relevant information into your title tag as possible.
Take this (excerpted) SERP for an article on how to write meta descriptions, for example: Though the content is excellent and this landing page contains a lot of value, its title is simply the keyword “meta description,” which isn’t giving any information about what’s on the site. On the other hand, this one is better:
The lead title has been edited to include some relevant keywords and phrases – like SEO tips, optimization advice, etc. It was also given a subheading that elaborates further and links back to additional articles on in-depth topics related to writing meta descriptions. So in terms of quality (and usefulness), this article is head and shoulders above the first! But that doesn’t mean what we have here is perfect either – it’s still missing some essential elements that could have been used to improve the meta description.
The on-page optimization behind this article is solid, but there are some things we can do to make it even better. For example: What problem does this page solve? Always be sure to describe what your site or article solves – what are you trying to say and why? Most importantly, how will it benefit users? Quality content starts with a clear understanding of who you’re writing for and what they intend to get out of it. If what you’re giving them isn’t practical, then they won’t come back for more! So take time to think critically about what’s on your site – including meta descriptions and titles – and make sure you’re not missing out on any opportunities. (As this article is about meta descriptions, I’ll direct you to a previous HubSpot blog post that explains how to write hyper-targeted meta titles.)
Write for the user – and don’t forget to include your target keywords!
Meta descriptions are typically used as snippets in Google SERPs or other search engines like Yahoo or Bing. Naturally, therefore, they must sound natural when read aloud by humans – which essentially means using proper English.
The first of these two snippets sounds more like someone talking because it doesn’t use any commas. If you read them both aloud, it should be pretty obvious which one reads better spoken, which is the one that will perform better in the SERPs. – See more at: http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/meta-descriptions#sthash.XGeIoeou.dpuf
In addition to proper grammar, meta descriptions should also explain what users can expect from a page and how it will benefit them specifically. The title tries to do that too but is limited by its character count, so it’s up to you how much information you want to include within your meta description as well! This guide on SEO Moz goes over their “rule of thumb” for writing compelling meta descriptions. It emphasizes using value-based copy (and strong keywords) for your site’s pages to rank higher and giving some ideas for how long meta descriptions should be (they recommend keeping them around 160 characters or less).
In the end, though, it’s important to remember that Google might not even show your meta description at all in search results. In fact, this could very well be true for most of your pages – especially when you’re ranking lower. Take this SERP I pulled up for “SEO writing tips,” for instance:
Here, only the title is shown under each result, and there are no site links either – so we can’t even see any meta descriptions! However, it turns out that what we can see may vary quite a bit depending on where our page ranks, what keywords are driving traffic to it, and what role the page plays in the structuring of your site.
To help us answer those questions, we can examine a few data points:
- For this particular page, Google did show a meta description on the search results page, which is good news for our writing. Although it’s missing some important keywords, that would have improved its chances of showing (SEO Tips & Writing) compared to when I searched for “SEO Writing Tips.”
- As an article on a subdomain without any internal links pointing back to it, I doubt many readers will arrive at this page organically via the SERPs. Hence, it’s more likely that they’ll stumble upon it through social media or other channels. But even still, there’s a good chance that Google will display the “Tips for Writing SEO- Friendly Content” snippet at the top of my SERPs (see below).
- If we look at our keyword tracker, we can see how this page performs from actual visits and referred traffic perspectives. It doesn’t get much – zero! – organic search traffic, so it’s likely not even ranking organically for any target keywords and is past the first few pages of results (which is where metadata would appear in most cases).
- Finally, let’s take a look at our meta description:
While it has all of our essential keywords and links to other HubSpot blog posts, I’m not sure if it’s doing us much good from an SEO perspective.
Let’s break it down:
- Line 1: This is a meta description, meaning that it will be shown as a search snippet used for our page in SERPs – and not as part of the HTML title tag. It has 467 characters and uses strong keywords but contains too much detail. Would you read all that if you were searching? I doubt it! And neither would Google users who wouldn’t bother looking through the entire meta description to find what they want on your site.
- Lines 2-3: It starts with a compelling call to action (CTA), which can drive traffic to our site, but ends with something off-topic. While the amount of text between these two lines is irrelevant (in terms of space), it’s not always a good idea to go off-topic. As for the initial CTA, while “Write Better Content” is what we want readers to do on this page, the subheading and title (“Tips & Writing”) may be too vague for Google users.
- Line 4: The meta description ends with an additional link pointing back to our home page. While there are no guidelines that say you can’t do this, adding unnecessary links at the end of your meta description doesn’t make sense when you’re trying to get clicks specifically from these results and boost your SEO rankings. I’d argue that not only does it hinder your SEO efforts, but it can also hurt them!
Here are the main takeaways I got from this exercise:
- A meta description is a summary of your page that Google shows to search users on SERPs.
- If Google can’t find a meta description, it will show or extract one from your page’s content. This makes it even more important to make sure that you’re using proper keyword phrases in your HTML title and throughout your copy!
- Meta descriptions usually have 255 characters, including spaces – but don’t be afraid to make yours shorter if you have more than 100-150 characters! The search snippets might be truncated anyway (as we learned earlier).
- Although there aren’t any guidelines for meta descriptions, most people limit theirs to 4-6 lines between 65-70 characters each and 44 characters for the initial CTA (with 30-35 being more common).
- If you want to improve your meta description before it shows up in SERPs – as well as boost its conversion rate when users click on the result that has your page’s snippet.
Meta Description Tips
Use vital keyword phrases: Ideally, I would have written my meta description around one or two benefit-driven keywords, such as ” Tips for Writing SEO Friendly Content. ” But unfortunately, there aren’t any benefits mentioned anywhere on this page! So choose different words that describe what readers will get out of your post, then include only one or two relevant ones per line. This is especially important if you have more than two or three vital keyword phrases to include in your meta description.
- Shorten the copy: Always make sure that what you include is essential and will compel users to click through, but if you can’t do this without exceeding your character limit, then keep it short! Readers should see what the entire post is about rather than having a high-quality meta description with limited content on the page.
- Don’t put yourself before Google: When writing your meta description, remember that you’re marketing to Google users and search engines! Remember – don’t give potential readers too much detail about what they’ll get at the cost of not including enough information for search engines (like using the keyword phrases you want to rank for). The best approach is to give users a preview of what they’ll find in your post without burying any critical information.
- Add strong closing lines: Remember how we started with both an introductory and a concluding line? Well, you might think that it’s better to add a CTA at the beginning of your meta description, but if you want your meta description to get more clicks, then it is ideal for placing a relevant call-to-action (CTA) in the last few lines. An example of this would be something like ” Find out how ten established bloggers manage their content marketing efforts.”
- Keep in mind that because every few words will appear separately in SERPs, it makes sense to keep your meta descriptions in short paragraphs.
How to avoid these common mistakes
When writing your meta description, avoid using the following elements and tags (most of which are unnecessary):
– Use line breaks.
– Anchor text – This tells Google and readers what individual words on your page link to. If you want to get higher rankings for a specific keyword, make sure that you include it as anchor text in relevant places and throughout your content to boost its relevancy! But it’s not necessary for meta descriptions or headers/links!
– Keyword stuffing – You can still mention keywords, but avoid repetition (and go easy with them if you
What is a meta description, how long does it need to be?
It’s important to remember that meta descriptions aren’t ranking factors for SEO anymore (like they use to). However, they can still influence search engine rankings by their relation to your keyword density. For example, if you want to rank for “search engine optimization company,” then you probably want one of those terms in your meta description, so make sure at least one appears in plain sight somewhere on your homepage. If someone searches for a “search engine optimization company,” then Google will display 2-3 snippets from competing sites (usually the first three results) on that search query. So if your meta description contains both keywords, then you have an excellent opportunity to catch their eye as well as dominate the SERP.
How long should meta descriptions be?
The length of a meta description is based on what’s called “recall.” In other words, how many searchers clicked on your site from the SERPs (because your meta description influenced them) as a percentage of all that saw it in the search engine listings? This way, Google can easily infer whether or not users are clicking on your listing because they like what they see or because of your metatags. If no one clicks through for a while, Google will place less emphasis on your meta description, or they might even ignore it entirely. If your meta descriptions aren’t increasing click-through rates, Google *might* stop reading them altogether. If you’re a local business (like a plumber in San Diego) and most searchers are from San Diego, then make sure to include the city name in your metatags and your content (your site’s wording). This will help users find what exactly they’re looking for when they visit!
How to view your site’s meta description
Google Webmaster Tools is the best way to see SEO data where it comes from. Here’s how to do it:
- go to google webmaster tools,
- log in to your account
- click on “search traffic”
- select the website you want to edit on, and
- This will take you to a page that shows all of your site’s data. Clicking on meta description will show you what Google sees (without the keyword stuffing).
How do I extract real search value from my visitors?
If you’re looking for actual data for an SEO campaign, then Google Analytics is pretty much it. You can go over to Google Analytics, log in with your credentials, and find more information about how people use your website by clicking on reports > behavioral > landing pages. Then, choose specific keywords related to the type of business or industry that your company operates in. In this way, you can optimize each keyword for conversions. Optimizing your meta descriptions is another excellent way to extract real search value from your visitors. This also increases the chances of visitor engagement, and it’ll help you avoid costly SEO mistakes that could ultimately redefine you.
What keywords should I include in my meta description?
Keywords are the most important thing when it comes to meta description optimization. These words define what people who visit your site will find once they click on a particular search result. You should derive keyword phrases or even entire sentences from whatever your business is trying to accomplish with their product or service offerings. The best meta descriptions can capture what a searcher (who’s interested in) would want to know while still keeping them reading through all of your text. So if you’re offering a content writing service, then your meta description might be something like: “We specialize in writing marketing copy for SEO campaigns. Our articles and blog posts are written to help deliver quality traffic and high conversion rates.” This is still a pretty good example of a meta description that tells people what they need to know. It’s elegant, it’s short, it’s ranked well (number 7 right now!), and most importantly: Google reads it without giving any indication of weirdness!
How do I optimize my meta descriptions?
Optimizing meta descriptions involves not only search engine optimization (SEO) best practices, as you probably expected by now, but also some usability ones as well. You want your site rankings to be based on search value and as trim on keyword stuffing as possible. This means that you want to use your keywords in the most natural way possible without making them stick out like a sore thumb. So rather than using this description: “We specialize in writing marketing copy for SEO campaigns. Our articles and blog posts are written to help deliver quality traffic and high conversion rates.” Instead, you might try something more along these lines:
For example, let’s assume that your web development company name is Marketo. You make a living by developing e-commerce solutions for individuals or businesses by providing platforms with e-commerce features (which include things like shopping carts, payment processing, shipping management, etc.). If so, then your description should look something more like this: “We specialize in creating e-commerce platforms that help individuals or businesses manage their product catalogs and orders online. We also develop shopping carts and payment gateways to make it easier for you to sell products.”
But don’t think about this merely suggesting how to write a meta description because it is not. The important thing here is that you are optimizing your meta descriptions, which means using them appropriately to show up on all major search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo!) And most importantly, when people type in specific keywords related to what you are trying to do with your business or personal brand. For example, let’s say that you’re an attorney who specializes in bankruptcy law. If so, you’ll want to think about how your meta descriptions will affect the searches that have to do with this subject. And you may want to tailor them accordingly: (For instance, for top ranking in Google): “We are bankruptcy law specialists who can help you understand all of the legal options available when it comes to filing or discharging of debts.
Being knowledgeable about the bankruptcy process isn’t enough if you’re unsure what you’ll owe once it’s complete. We offer free consultations and will explain your options before any decisions are made.” When search engines crawl through these descriptions, they formulate a sentence that describes both what people would be looking for and what other factors they could use to implement specific ranking priorities based on the actual site content. But how do they create this? As it turns out, when a search engine like Google or Bing comes to your site for the very first time, it looks at what you’ve got going on under your title tag and meta description tags (in that order). It will then use these two things to formulate a sentence that describes your content in a relevant way to what people are searching for and what other factors could be used for ranking purposes.
So if you’re not using optimized meta descriptions, you may find yourself losing out on potentially valuable organic traffic. And even worse: You may lose potential clients simply because no one sees their way back to you! Google ranks pages based on relevancy, which means that if your meta descriptions are relevant to what people are searching for and what your page is about, you have a better chance of showing up higher than those who don’t. If not, you might be looking at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to getting any search engine exposure.
To recap, meta descriptions affect user behavior, help search engines index your site more comprehensively, and may sometimes appear next to (or above) your link in search results pages. There are no hard and fast rules for meta description optimization, but in general, you want to make sure they are descriptive, contain valid keywords, and don’t exceed 160 characters.
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This article is written by The Trusted Automation Advisory team, provides advisory services for leaders worldwide. If you have any questions, you can contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, from their website at https://thetrustedautomation.com, or phone at (949) 333-7200.
If you have further suggestions/ideas for future writings, we’d love to hear about them, so do not hesitate to mention them in the comments as well. For more information, contact our team of experts that specialize in search engine optimization for non-profits. Montfichet & Company Atlanta | (404) 900-9814 | email@example.com.