No, your meta title and description are NOT signals when it comes to your rankings on search engines. However, they play a vital role in informing your potential patient about what’s on your website. Think of a meta title and description like the information you’d find on the back of a book. A potential reader will examine the book, flip through the pages, and review the front and back cover. SERPs are like a virtual bookshelf of relevant information that appear based on a user’s query. Do you think users will click on your website link in the SERPs if you have at best a generic meta description? Probably not. So what can you do about it? Why are meta titles and descriptions so important to a solid SEO strategy if they are not considered signals for search engine algorithms? Read on to find out!
Check your meta as it is in the SERPs right now, do it. Just do it.
Use the format below to see how search engines are showing your meta information in the SERPs: info:yourwebsite.com
The search engine will show you the URL you entered on the SERP how it has been crawled and indexed by the engine’s bots. This is a great way to make a quick check on what your descriptions look like in real time.
Take note that if you update your meta information, it will show the previous version of the content until your website is crawled and indexed again.
What are meta titles and descriptions?
As you’ll see in the examples above, you have three main elements shown in the SERPs:
- Title: Dental SEO Blog | Dentist’s SEO Blog | MDPM Consulting
- URL: mdpmdentalmarketing.com/blog
- Description: “Are you interested in learning more about dental search engine…”
If you don’t suggest your own title, search engines will choose it for you. In general, search engines use what they find on the page and select what best fits as a title. This tends to be the H1 of the page. Using tools like All in One SEO or WordPress SEO from Yoast helps denote which titles you want search engines to use. It’s highly suggested that you write a unique title for each page on the site, so that you can attract the ideal and qualified user to your website’s pages.
Descriptions, the largest part of each SERP result, tend to be left behind. They aren’t a signal for the ranking algorithms.
Or are they?
Although Google has explicitly mentioned that meta descriptions are not used as a signal in ranking a website, they still influence a few signals that are used in the algorithms to rank websites. The first is user behavior, and the second is click-through rate (CTR).
Consider location-based search as an example for user behavior as a ranking signal. A user in Dallas, Tx is going to get a different result than a user in Seattle, Wa if they both query “weather” in a search engine.
A direct influencer of CTR is relevance. If search engines find your page relevant to the user’s query, they will show it in the SERPs. The rank depends on various factors, but the basics say the more relevant, the higher it will rank. More importantly, if a user finds your page relevant to their search, they will click through to that page.
How do you create relevance on the SERPs for your website and its pages? The meta description. This is not to say your meta information can carry your rankings, it’s simply a representation of what is on the page linked in the SERPs.
Remember the book analogy in the opening paragraph? Users are reading the figurative back cover of your web page when they find your link in the SERPs. Make it count.
Why are they important, even if they aren’t ranking signals?
If you’ve made it this far in the post, then you should have an idea of why meta titles and descriptions are important. Your title is a representation of the topic your SERP result is linked too. The description allows for a 156 character space to describe, entice, or inform the reader why that link is better than the others–and by better we mean more relevant to their query.
Many people assume search engines will pull the correct title, which in most cases they will. However, the description tends to be neglected, left to search engines to choose which 156 characters from the indexed page to represent your content in the SERPs.
If you’re serious about your SEO, meta descriptions and titles should still be on your SEO strategy list for things to optimize and watch.
Tips on writing great meta descriptions
Persuade: SEOs will suggest including a call to action as the description. This isn’t necessary, but you do want your user to make an action with this strategy. Ask yourself: If I were searching for my service or product, what would make me purchase it? Use your description to persuade the user to do what you want them to: call, click, or order.
Inspire: Informational pages and posts are great for evoking curiosity in the user. Do you think your user is looking to expand their knowledge on a topic? Does your page offer that knowledge? Tell your user what you have to offer and which questions you can answer. Help them find their way, and they will find their way to you.
Describe: The most basic strategy is to give the user a straight forward preview of the page they will find if they click-through your link. In most cases, this is an overview sentence, expanding on the main topic title and which areas of that topic the page or post covers.
Keywords: No the description won’t be crawled for rankings, but your users do read them. Fit a relevant keyword or two in the meta description, naturally. This helps them identify on the fly if what they’re looking at matters to them and their query. For example, a user looking for teeth whitening most likely won’t click on a teeth whitening result link that doesn’t persuade with a coupon, inspire with how the process works, or describe the end result of your product to them.