Meta descriptions are like silly old Uncle Bob who gets ignored at Thanksgiving get-togethers. But did you know that Uncle Bob is actually a multi-millionaire looking for a decent niece or nephew to include in his will? Like Bob, meta descriptions are often ignored or duplicated on multiple pages by website page creators and editors because they just don’t care. This is a huge mistake. If you care about capturing sales leads from targeted search, you should pay close attention to getting your meta descriptions right.
What is a Meta Description Tag?
For those of you who don’t dream in HTML or SEO, the meta description tag is a standard component of a web page’s <head> section. It’s supposed to be a brief (160 characters or so) description of the content on the page with a syntax as follows:
<META NAME= “Description” CONTENT= “Page description text goes here.”>
Search engines read your web page from top to bottom and pay particularly close attention to the <title> tag and other on-page SEO factors on your page or blog post. Meta descriptions are more important for human searchers. If you look at search results, the title tag is the first line of each result with larger font size and the searched keywords or phrases highlighted in bold. Depending on which search engine you’re using, the second or third line shows the meta description or a truncated version of it if the text exceeds 160 characters. This is where the rubber meets the road for lead generation from search.
The Importance of the Meta Description Tag in Search
While the ranking of your page in search engines depends on many factors, at least in Google the meta description tag doesn’t contribute. What it does, however, is equally important from a lead generation perspective. Your meta description tells the searcher three very important things:
- What your page is about
- How your page is relevant to their searched keywords
- Why they should click on your link now
In short, we use meta descriptions to decide which search results are worthy of further investigation. Most of us spend very little time reading them. We glance at them looking for relevance and value. The first results we pick are the most relevant and most valuable to us after glancing quickly at a page or two of organic search results. We glance at the paid search results above and to the right of the organic results, and we may click on one or two, but usually not unless we can’t find what we seek in the organic results. Ranking is still very important, because we will click the first result that meets our criteria, and if we are satisfied by the content of the page we click to, we may end our search there and either explore the website further or immediately buy, sign up or otherwise become a sales lead. So we need to treat each meta description tag with the same care that goes into crafting the page itself and the on-page SEO factors that contribute to its rank in the search engine results pages or SERPs.
How to Craft a Killer Meta Description Tag
- Make Your Page an Elevator Pitch – you have 30 seconds or less to describe what your page or blog post is about and why it’s relevant and valuable to the reader. Go ahead, write that down.
- Create and Deploy Your Keyword Strategy – put yourself in the shoes of your reader. Who is looking for this page and its content? What keywords would they most likely use to find it? Is it a local thing? If so, include the name of the city or region you’re going after. Optimize your page or post for all of the usual SEO suspects – title, headings, paragraphs of text, image titles and alt tags and links. Now focus on your meta description.
- Ask Yourself This – if someone found my page on Google, Yahoo or Bing, why would they want to click through? What’s in it for them? What would grab their attention and compel them to click?
- Now Craft Your Meta Description – In about 20 words, your mission is to show, at a glance, that the searcher has found a relevant, valuable result worthy of a click. Write your description in plain language that includes your primary keyword phrase and the value proposition for the searcher.
- Don’t repeat the same meta descriptions on multiple pages. This makes no sense. Are all of your pages or blog posts about the same topic? Searchers will see that and get a poor first impression of your content.
- Don’t use quotes (single quotes are ok though). Google will truncate your meta description if you use quotes. In general, it’s best to use alphanumeric characters exclusively.
Looking at our Home page result above, we have chosen to optimize our Home page on “inbound marketing agency,” which establishes relevancy for searchers who have searched on that keyword phrase (our target market) and tells them who we are. Next, we tell them what we do – “offers a dedicated inbound marketing team.” Finally we tell them why they should click through to our website – “delivering an average 200% return on investment.” We have given them a brief summary of the page content and why it’s important to them.
It’s not the flashiest meta description in the world, but it works. Our traffic and lead conversion rates for “inbound marketing agency” are second only to branded search terms like “Kuno Creative.” So don’t forget about the lowly meta description tag. It’s one of your best friends for lead conversion from search. Make them unique, relevant and attractive, and you will see the click-throughs improve dramatically.
Photo Credit: brewbooks
John McTigue is the Executive Vice President and co-owner of Kuno Creative, an inbound marketing agency located in the Greater Cleveland, Ohio area. Kuno Creative offers inbound marketing services including strategy, content creation, SEO, social media engagement and monitoring and advanced lead generation. Kuno is a Certified HubSpot Partner.