When a page from your site appears in search results, Google and other search engines show the title of the page, the URL and a snippet description of the page.
Where does the snippet (description) come from on search results?
Google will display a brief snippet, or description of the page, in search results. In some cases, Google automatically generates the snippet based on content that is included in the page itself. However, if you provide a “meta description” for the page, Google will often use the meta description of the page in search results snippets. Google will prefer the meta description of the page if the meta description gives users a more accurate description than would be possible purely from the on-page content.
So, what should a meta description be used for?
Use the meta description to provide a concise, human-readable summary of content on the page.
Accurate meta descriptions can help improve your clickthrough rate. Remember, the meta description is what Google displays as the snippet of text under the title and the URL on search results. Having a good meta description encourages potential visitors to click through to the site. This not only gets people to the site – which is our goal! – but also increases the “Click Through Rate” which tells Google that the content is interesting and relevant – and encourages Google to show your site more often in search results.
Some guidelines for properly using the meta description
All content on your site should have a meta description tag! If you don’t have a meta description, Google will auto-generate a description that may not match your goals for the page.
The meta description should contain good content, and it should reliably correspond to the content actually on the page. Good, reliable content is the key building block of long-term, healthy, sustainable “White Hat SEO“.
There are older, now mostly discredited uses of meta tags (such as for loading up the meta information with keywords or other information that is not displayed to the user). These tags are largely ignored by search engines or – worse – may lead the search engine to penalize the site for using “Black Hat SEO“. A penalty means that the site will be pushed down in search results or even not shown at all.
Do you have complete control over how the site appears in search results?
As much as we might like to have total control over how our site appears in search results, Google’s generation of page titles and descriptions (or “snippets”) is an automated process. This automated process is based on what appears on the page, on the meta description for the page, and on how references to the page appear on the web. By providing a meta description, we can influence the content of the snippet included in search results, but we can’t always control what Google decides to display in search results.
Since the URL appears in search results, should I change the URL for specific content?
Wait! Stop! Before you change a URL for content that has already been published, read this.
Should I use the same meta description for every page?
Use different meta descriptions for each page. If you use the same, or very similar descriptions, on every page of your site, Google is less likely to use your meta descriptions in the snippet. To get the most benefit from search, prepare a a meta description that fairly describes the content of the current page.
Hint: if you don’t have time to create a description for every single page, try to prioritize your content: At the very least, create a description for your home page and your most popular pages.
Ask TherapyEverywhere for help
Are your satisfied with how your site appears in search results? Do you think that you can do better? At TherapyEverywhere we would love to help. Call us today or fill in the contact form and click Send.Please share this post!