Wai Hong Fong
Using meta descriptions effectively
When your website appears in a Google search, Google will use some key data from your website to create your entry in the search results.
The three primary pieces of information that make up your listing are your title tag, meta description and URL (Uniform Resource Locator, otherwise known as your web address).
We've looked at title tags before, so now we can focus on meta descriptions.
The meta description is the blurb of text that appears below the title tag in the listing and is limited to 155 characters.
If the meta description is longer than 155 characters, Google will only show the first 155 characters and cut out the rest.
There are some instances where Google will not shorten your meta description, such as when the search query is extremely long, ie. more than 75 characters. If no meta description is provided, Google will automatically use text from the page which it deems relevant, usually the first few lines.
This may or may not be beneficial, and it's best practice to ensure you determine what Google shows to your users.
First of all, it is important to note that meta descriptions do not affect your rankings, but it does have a very important part to play in the SEO process. A well-written meta description will improve the click-through rate of an organic listing since users are able to understand the content of the website better.
So what makes a good meta description? Firstly, try to use the keywords that you're targeting for that particular page at least once or twice in the meta description. Search queries that include the keyword in the meta description are bolded and will stand out.
Try to find the balance between having relevant keywords in the meta description and ensuring that the meta description describes the content of the page in a human readable format. You can also include trust-inducing bits of information about your company, like a phone number or city of residence, which can help people know that you're a genuine business.
Finally, provide a value proposition for the potential visitor to click on your listing versus your competitors. Great offers should be included in your meta description, such as free shipping if you're an eCommerce website or free first consultation if you are a B2B service provider.
Wai Hong Fong is co-founder and chieftain at OZHut, a multi-niche online retailer that is passionate about truly serving people in the online space. In 2010, he was recognized as one of Australia's Top 30 under 30 entrepreneurs by SmartCompany.
Wai Hong also blogs on his journey as an Entrepeneur, with specific interests in SEO, Online Retail and learning to build strong businesses that thrive and in turn help us grow healthy communities that cherish our families, lives and wellbeing.