Optimizing Your Meta Descriptions for Search Engines
Search engines may or may not use meta descriptions in their algorithms to rank search results. However, since meta descriptions can help improve the click-through ratio via search results, I'll tell you how to properly optimize them for humans and search engines. By following this method, you’ll be able to ensure your meta descriptions are attractive to humans and have the fail-safe of being optimized for search engines.
First, it’s important to remember that search engines limit the number of characters from a meta description that will be displayed in search results. For Google this limit is 155 characters. Below is an example of a meta description, located in the red square.
As you can tell, this Web page is about bear hunting, so that keyword is inserted two to three times in the meta description. Because “bear hunting” was the search term, that phrase is bolded in the search results. By using your Web page’s primary keyword in your meta description, you’ll get it bolded, which draws attention to the person doing the searching.
You can also see that the example is a very short, sweet description of the website. It describes everything you can find on the home page and more. This engages the searcher because he now knows this Web page is about bear hunting and contains everything he needs to know about the topic.
Don’t just stuff keywords into your meta description, as this may appear as spam and discourage people from clicking on your site. It may also trigger search engines to use a random snippet instead of your defined meta description.
Just like title tags, the meta description isn’t very difficult to optimize. By following some simple rules and guidelines, you can easily optimize it from every single one of your Web pages. Below are some tips to remind you how to properly use the meta description element:
- Meta descriptions may or may not be used by search engines for ranking purposes. Default on the safe side and assume they are.
- Make your meta descriptions as relevant as possible to your Web pages’ content.
- Limit your meta description to only 155 characters.
- Try to insert the Web page’s primary keyword or keyword phrase two to three times if possible.
Remember, the meta description should be primarily written for humans, not search engines. By following the guidelines above, you will successfully optimize your Web pages for online users and Internet search engines.
The next installment of this column will be more advanced, including information about URL structures.
Stephen D. Sandecki is the Internet marketing specialist for LifeStorage Centers LLC. He has more than eight years of experience in search-engine optimization, paid search and Internet marketing, and six years of experience in the self-storage industry. LifeStorage has 18 facilities throughout the Chicagoland area. For more information on Chicago Storage , visit LifeStorage.net.