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Why Everyone (Including You) Is Failing at Meta Descriptions

Why Everyone (Including You) Is Failing at Meta Descriptions Blog Feature

August 11th, 2014 min read

shutterstock_141798160_miniThe other day I came across one of my blog posts on a search engine results page and I couldn't believe my eyes.

No meta description!? 

Aware that I've never published a post without creating an optimized meta description, I called my good friends at HubSpot support to determine whether or not I was going crazy. 

They assured me that I was sane, and that a Google recrawl request should resolve the problem.

You see, whether we like it or not indexing doesn't happen overnight (Google has kind of got their hands full.)

Regardless, this experience got me thinking that if I had experienced this type of oversight myself, what other meta description crimes were going down on search engine results pages?After inputting a few search queries, I noticed that there were a ton of messy metas out there providing weak support for their accompaying titles.

How could this be? 

In an effort to help businesses right their meta description wrongs, I sought to identify the issues and come up with actionable solutions. 

The Top 3 Meta Description Mishaps:

1. They're non-existent

Want to know what's worse than a poorly optimized meta description?

No meta description at all.

Believe it or not, there are a ton of pages out there that are out there waiting to be clicked, however they don't have any supportive text to help their cause. 

If you're relying on your title alone to persuade people to click-through, you're not setting your pages up for success.

How to fix it:

If you haven't been putting forth unique meta descriptions for each of your pages, it's time that you start.

If you're using HubSpot's blogging tool, they've included a handy 'SEO view' option that provides users with a checklist of SEO optimizations to be completed before publishing. This checklist includes a meta optimizations section to ensure that users never forget this small snippet of text. 

If it appears that your meta descriptions aren't updating on SERPs, it may be time for you to request a recrawl too. This will alert Google that you'd like for them to employ their "spiders" to crawl your site and add new URLs to their index. To request a recrawl, follow the instructions here

2. They're not selling the content

According to Moz, "meta description tags, while not important to search engine rankings, are extremely important in gaining user click-through from SERPs. These short paragraphs are a webmaster’s opportunity to advertise content to searchers and to let them know exactly whether the given page contains the information they're looking for."

If your meta description content isn't persuasive, it's likely that you're not going to see the click rates you're looking for. 

How to fix it:

Strong meta descriptions are:

1) Accurate

2) Interesting

3) Clear

Accurate: In terms of accuracy, you want to be sure that you are providing a true representation of what the page you're directing them to is all about. This is not the time and place for deceptive marketing. 

If the page leads to a blog article about improving call-to-action conversions, the meta description should reflect just that. 

Interesting: Out of the 10 relevant search results on the page, what is going to make your site stand out? If you're not taking advantage of this opportunity to highlight why your page is the most logical option, you're missing out. 

Clear: We all manage to slim our Twitter engagements down to 140, so this shouldn't be treated any differently. Focus on saying what you need to say, but deliver it in the most concise way possible. 

Here's are a few examples of a great meta descriptions for reference:

Screen_Shot_2014-08-07_at_1.59.26_PM

Screen_Shot_2014-08-07_at_2.09.48_PM

Screen_Shot_2014-08-07_at_2.22.21_PM

3. They're getting cut off

So let's say you're reading one of my blog articles and all of a sudden out of the blue I just...

"You just what???"

Exactly my point.

Meta descriptions that exceed the character limit are not only confusing, but they often they result in a loss of meaning. 

To avoid any awkward or confusing cut off, it's important that you double-check your descriptions before you publish a page. 

How to fix it:

In order for your meta description to appear in full, it should be no longer than 156 characters in length. Anything after 156 characters will be replaced with an ellipsis (...) so your focus should be on keeping things quick, clear, and concise. 

SEOmofo is a great optimization tool for doing just this. The tool allows users to input your title, meta description, and URL to generate a visual SERP preview. It also provides specific length indicators to help you craft a perfectly sized description. 

Keep in mind that if the page you are publishing includes a publish date, it may take away from the 150 character maximum. To ensure that it has no influence on your the message you're trying to display, you may want to account for this.

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