Meta descriptions are funny. Yes, they serve a major purpose. And they absolutely do some great marketing work. Unlike every other aspect of SEO, though, they don’t necessarily do anything for your search ranking. Yes, this is one place where the almighty Google Algorithm isn’t pulled into service. In fact, it’s a place where Google has been abundantly clear about its ranking process. That’s why it’s both a mystery that meta descriptions are so important to the SEO process.
So, why meta descriptions?
First and foremost, they’re eye-catchers. Your meta description is that lovely little block of text that shows up under your search results on Google and similar search engines. The text entered there is solely for human consumption, and thus can be viewed purely from a marketing perspective. If your website’s name is your sign on the virtual awning, your website’s meta description is the catchy jingle that tells customers what your business is all about.
Since Google doesn’t really factor meta descriptions into search rankings, you’d think that there would be something of a free-for-all in terms of how these tags are used. As will all things SEO, though, there is a definite formula to be followed. This is less about convincing a strange program to love your site than making sure your text falls within the boundaries set up by Google, though, so most of these rules actually make a great deal of sense at first blush.
The first thing you have to consider is length. The average meta description is going to give you about one hundred and sixty words at a maximum before your text gets cuts off. To play things safe, think of your meta descriptions like a tweet – one hundred forty characters or less. You also need to make sure it doesn’t include quotes, because this automatically truncates the message. Simple and easy rules to follow, right?
Do you have to have a meta description? No. It’s a great tool for marketing, though, and anyone who pays attention to SEO knows that a little marketing goes a long way.