If you have a website and have looked at ways to increase its visibility, you have probably heard about meta descriptions. Meta descriptions are a very important SEO element, but since they are a "behind the scenes" feature, they are often overlooked by webmasters. Adding meta descriptions to your website is a simple improvement that can greatly enhance not only rankings and visibility, but also the likelihood of someone clicking on your site.
Understanding what meta descriptions do for your website will help you write them well. It used to be that search engines were the target audience for meta descriptions, but updates to Google algorithms and search result listings have changed that. Now meta descriptions can appear as part of the text that displays to describe a search result. That means your meta description acts as somewhat of a teaser, enticing a reader to click for more.
Michiel Heijmans of Yoast provides advice on how to create the right meta descriptions. Some of the suggestions he provides for writing effective meta descriptions include:
Character length should be 130 to 155 characters. The number can vary depending on what Google decides to show, but this seems to be a comfortable range in most cases.
A Call-to-Action should be included. Although you may think it's obvious why readers should click your link, it may help to invite them with a "learn more" or "try it now."
The description needs to match the page content. If Google believes you are pulling a bait and switch with readers, you may end up getting penalized. Make sure what they see is what they get.
Descriptions should have a focus keyword. When the search keyword matches text in the meta description, Google will be more likely to use that meta description and bold it in the search results.
Each meta description is like a mini sales pitch. Usually the biggest challenge in writing them is keeping them confined to the recommended character limit. Taking the time to add them could mean a nice boost for your visibility and click-through rates.
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