The meta description is an often overlooked SEO element.
In this post we’ll discuss what the meta description is, why it’s important, how to find the meta description, how to change your meta description, and some basic advice for optimizing the meta description for your food blog.
Side note: Isn’t all of this internet marketing/web optimization/SEO/online business stuff so cool? I’m so incredibly grateful to be able to learn, write, and share this with you guys. Thanks for checking out this post and for being a part of Food Blogger Pro (in whatever way that might be).
Let’s jump in.
What is the meta description?
First, the technical explanation:
The meta description is an HTML attribute on a web page that explains what the page is about. In other words, the meta description describes the page.
You can see the meta description HTML code if you look at a website’s source code. It usually looks something like this:
Don’t let the code scare you though.
You’ll never have to do any manually coding when entering a meta description. I just think it’s important to fully understand how this stuff works, which means understanding where it lives on a website.
Here are some examples of where you might find meta descriptions at work.
The meta description for the Pinch of Yum home page on Google:
The meta description for a Pinch of Yum tomato lasagna florentine on Google:
The meta description for the Pinch of Yum home page on Facebook:
The meta description for the Pinch of Yum home page on Pinterest:
Why is the meta description important?
Before I answer that question isn’t important to address why the meta description is not important.
The meta description doesn’t help you rank higher in search engines.
That’s not a hypothesis. Google actually openly says that they don’t use meta descriptions or keywords in their ranking algorithm.
Even though we sometimes use the description meta tag for the snippets we show, we still don’t use the description meta tag in our ranking.
From the post Google does not use the keywords meta tag in web ranking on the Google Webmaster blog.
So if the meta description doesn’t improve your rankings then why is it important?
Good question! Thanks for asking. 🙂
See if you can figure out the significance of a strong meta description by looking at this screenshot of a Google search for creamy tomato lasagna florentine.
- This Creamy Tomato Lasagna Florentine is so deliciously comforting and simple. Noodles, tomato sauce, and a creamy spinach layer!
- 1 box of whole wheat lasagna noodles 2 boneless skinless chicken breast cut into small cubes 1 bag prepared spinach 1 can diced tomatoes(I use the garlic …
Can you see how the first description is just wee bit more enticing? 🙂
There are two primary factors that you need to consider when building traffic from a search engine:
- Ranking: Getting your website or blog post to rank high on a search engine results page (i.e. SERPs).
- Clicking: Getting people to click on your website or blog post when it appears in a SERP.
The first one doesn’t matter if the second one never happens, and optimizing your meta descriptions is one of the best ways to increase the chances of #2 happening more often.
When you’re working on improving #2 it’s called optimizing your click-through rate, or CTR.
How do I find my meta descriptions?
How to Find the Meta Description
A quick tip for finding a website's meta description by searching through a site's source code or using the SEO quake browser add-on.
Here’s how to find a page’s meta description using SEO Quake.
1. Click on SEO Quake icon and select Page Info…
2. A new browser tab will open and display relevant SEO information, including the page’s meta description:
How do I change my meta description?
We recommend using a plugin called WordPress SEO by Yoast.
This plugin will allow you to update the meta description on individual posts and pages:
…as well as your blog’s home page:
How do I optimize my meta description?
Remember, when optimizing the meta description we’re not trying to influence ranking, we’re trying to influence clicking.
Here are some things to consider:
1. Length between 150 and 160 characters
Try to keep your meta description between 150 and 160 characters. If your meta description is longer than 160 characters then Google will truncate it.
Funny enough, the meta description for the Google home page is a bit too long, and thus Google is truncating it’s own meta description. Too bad they don’t have any search experts to help them optimize that. 🙂
2. Include keywords
When I was in college I did a lot of selling on eBay. One of the options you had when listing an item was to pay an extra fee in order to include bold text in your listing.
Because bold text stands out, and people are more likely to click something that stands out.
The same is true for search results. People are more likely to click on items that include bold text.
If your meta description includes the keywords that the person searched for then they’ll show up in bold.
3. Utilize the tools in Google Webmaster Tools
Google Webmaster Tools is an incredible (and free) tool from Google that offers countless ways to analyze, improve, and optimize the SEO related elements on your blog.
Food Blogger Pro members can go through the Google Webmaster Tools Essential Tools – Google Webmaster Tools course to learn about the different features you should be using to optimize your blog’s SEO.
When can I expect my meta description to show up in Google?
Google doesn't make any promises about actually showing the meta description that you suggest. That's the thing, it's a suggestion to Google. Often times Google will decide to show it, but it's also common for Google to pick a different meta description that they think will work better.
What about you?
Do you make a point of optimizing the meta descriptions on your blog’s pages and posts? If you don’t, why not? Any other meta description tips or tricks that you think we missed? We’d love to hear from you!