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Perfecting the Meta Description

Posted on 10.17.2016

Over the past two decades meta descriptions have managed to maintain their role as an important, if not essential, element of search optimization.

While many digital professionals responsible for search engine optimization (SEO) are concerned with how search engines view these elements, it is more important that users find them both appealing and useful.

Creating the "perfect" meta description for users is not really possible, of course, but it does provide a target (albeit a lofty one).

While there are many that will concern themselves with the specifics of optimizing this element, like crafting a meta description to contain the "optimal" 155 characters (which doesn't really matter since Google measures by pixels anyway), it is best to take a more strategic "meta" approach, to handling this important and influential element in users experience on the search engines.

Our ultimate aim is to deliver an expression of meaning in a succinct, compelling, creative and appealing way. That's a tall order for sure, but based on what what we know about human's digital behavior and their emotional and psychological triggers it is most certainly possible.

Consider the following if you're new to the practice of search engine optimization and are looking to optimize your meta descriptions, or if you're an experienced 'Net professional responsible for SEO, evaluate how well your campaigns approach the development of these important elements.

Live Up To the Name

They don't call it a "meta description" for nothing.

"Meta" essentially means that it refers to itself and since meta descriptions are intended to be provided to the end-user, they provide the perfect opportunity to describe, in detail, what lies beyond the hyperlink.

The most straightforward and efficient way to do that is to ensure that you're providing answers to the the basic questions of users; what is it, who is it for, where can I get it, why is it happening, how will it impact me?

If a meta description can answer one or more of those questions, Web professionals can consider their digital properties and SEO campaigns on the right track.

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Meta descriptions that take this approach and make these considerations tend to be more useful to the user, more specific-to-specific buyer personas that convert and rarely suffer from not being unique enough to differentiate a listing from others on the search results page.

There are, of course, many other ways that 'Net professionals can get closer to that perfect meta description.

Order & Structure

There is a sophisticated art and rigorous science behind the methods that 'Net professionals use to construct and organize the words so they are appealing to end-users.

If you really want to geek out about it, word order typology is the study of the order of the syntactic constituents of a language, and how different languages can employ different orders.

Theoretically, there are six possible basic word orders for the transitive sentence, combining a finite verb (V), a subject (S), and an object (O): subject–verb–object (SVO), subject–object–verb (SOV), verb–subject–object (VSO), verb–object–subject (VOS), object–subject–verb (OSV) and object–verb–subject (OVS).

Most sentences take the form of SVO or SOV but as you'll see in the examples below, they can really run the gamut.

Why is this important? In a word, it provides those responsible for SEO an opportunity to understand how the descriptions they create are influencing users on the search results page (SERP). If you know, for example, that you're receiving impressions but not many clicks and tend to use a dryer object-subject-verb order within descriptions, modifying the development of future descriptions to a more familiar SOV order could provide a much needed performance improvement.

Follow Best Practices

Providing as much detailed information as possible and getting creative with word order and structure should definitely be top of mind with those responsible for SEO, but following best practices and traditional protocols remains useful.

A few of the tactics being employed by today's search engine optimization professionals include using active voice, featuring a call-to-action, and repeating the primary or focus keyword.

While these "best practices" alone won't send your website pages to the top of the SERPs, they provide another opportunity to optimize this crucial SEO element.

Paying attention to this crucial SEO element and how it influences users in their experience at the search engine is important. Every website has an opportunity to optimize this element and it should be a regular practice for those in pursuit of success on the Web - and the search results pages.

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