Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a complex & fast evolving science. Recommendations on how to optimise your website to be search engine friendly occur at an almost daily rate. As a writer, my part of the SEO process is using the words on the site to give it the best chance of ranking on the search engines through specifying the meta-descriptions. When I write a site, this is integral to the process. When I am asked to do SEO on a site I haven’t written, it’s a case of massaging the existing content into a search engine friendly format – a much trickier task.
What is Meta?
In SEO terms, as a copywriter I deal with meta, the words. When you hear the terms meta-tag or meta-description, meta simply means ‘related to’ or ‘information about’. So a meta-description is information about the content, it defines what you will find on the page.
The meta-description tells you what you’ll find on my homepage – it’s a service for people who need a writer. Search engines only allow a limited number of characters in a meta-description so I’ve kept within this limit when writing mine so the sentence doesn’t just tale off…
If you don’t define your own meta-description, the search engines will grab some copy from your page and do it for you. This is often the first sentence on the page or a section with a high keyword density. So if I search for my home town of Harrogate you will see three out of the top four results have no specified meta-descriptions, just information pulled through from the site.
So if these sites are still ranking, does it matter about the meta-descriptions? Well, the search engines say it does; Google’s current advice is to use them as it is a sign of a good quality, content rich site. Handwritten meta-descriptions are more likely to rank and therefore will improve both the quality and quantity of user traffic. Specifying your own description helps you stay in control of how your site is initially viewed by summarising your product or service in your own terms. Along with creating a good SEO title, it gives a thought through, informative first impression.
Here’s an example from a property developer promoting apartments – each title & meta-description is different so each ranks and there’s three opportunities to click through. They also look consistent, as if someone has taken the time to think them through, which of course they have – humans still beat robots at this stuff.
How to Write a Meta-Description
The simple answer is don’t worry about it – get on with your business and ask a copywriter to write the descriptions for you, it’s what we do. If you are considering a new site, make sure the content for each page contains a keyword to guide your SEO title and your meta-description. Remember, focus on your customer. Meta-descriptions are picked up by search engines but should be written for humans; it’s amazing how much informative content you can get in to 160 characters. Having a unique description for every page of your site maximises your chances of attracting traffic and showcases your content.
I can’t guarantee that sorting our your meta will rank you number one on Google, there’s a lot more to it than that. However, when you do rank you will look professional, informative and open for business and that is always what your customers are looking for.