It’s easy to get caught up in the specific tactics that influence search engine results pages.
There are URL naming structures to consider, keywords to be be added to page titles and the proper prioritization of heading tags in copy. Yet there’s one piece of data that doesn’t factor into most search engine results — the meta description.
Google more than four years ago made it clear where it stands on descriptions: “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.”
Yet just because Google disregards the description, it doesn’t mean you should.
Search engine optimization is more than worrying about the “engines.” Optimizing a site for search also means optimizing for the people conducting the search. While a meta description may not influence ranking results, it can play a key role when it comes to click-through rates and inspiring a user to spend more time with you.
Every opportunity to enhance a brand, to draw in another reader or to speak to a specific audience can make a difference — even in a space as a small as the meta description.
What’s surprising is how many institutions, both large and small, forget to craft enough text to make this an engaging item … or make them too long to fit within the set limitations. The following are actual descriptions (with institution names removed) indexed by Google that appear in search engine results:
- Research affiliation: Center for Research Libraries
- [University Name] Home Page · Student Life & Services · News & Events · Library · Log Into Connections. Quick Links… Academic Affairs, Academic Calendars …
- Skip to Main Content. [University Name] · A-Z Index · my[University Acronym] · Events · Directory · Maps. Search [University Acronym]. Utilities. A-Z Index · my[University Acronym] …
- [University Name]. School of Social Work – Transfer Student Applications Mon, Oct 1, 2012, 2:00pm – Fri, Feb 15, 2013, 11:55pm. Holiday Helper …
- ©2011 [University Name] Admin Login T.O.P.S. If you’d like to provide feedback on our website, please fill out this form. More hence cheap …
Do any of those descriptions leave you yearning for more?
Examples of Good Meta Descriptions
The meta description space is a small area, sure, but there are institutions setting a strong example of how engaging that space can be. The following are examples of some institutions doing it right:
The stories these descriptions tell are so much larger than the 114 to 135 characters that comprise them.
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hlkljgk/3061245993