Meta descriptions. You’ve heard the term thrown around, probably in conjunction with talks about SEO and by the end of the conversation, your eyes probably glazed over. You just wanted to talk about website design. Why did the conversation have to veer toward something as technical and complicated as meta descriptions and SEO?
In today’s day and age, a key component of medical website design and medical marketing is SEO. And a part of SEO is meta descriptions. Afterall, if SEO is all about getting your website to rank well, then the other part of the equation is getting someone to click through to your website when it appears in the search engine results pages.
Understanding the ins and outs of meta descriptions and how to integrate them into a variety of dental marketing strategies is both crucial to your success online, and an important part of giving personality to your website and business’ reputation.
What are Meta Descriptions?
Meta descriptions aren’t nearly as scary as they sound. They aren’t some hidden code that only the most experienced back-end programmer can edit. Nope. They’re actually surprisingly simple. And with a little HTML background, you might find yourself editing and creating meta descriptions one day.
A meta description is, as Moz puts it, an “HTML attribute that provides concise explanations of the contents of web pages”
When you type a query into a search engine, the search engine results page populates with a variety of options that it believes will best answer the question you asked. Even if your search wasn’t phrased as a question, every search is, in essence, a question someone wants an answer to.
The title is the clickable link that should include some of your keywords. It’s the name of the page the search engine is suggesting. Below the title is the meta description. This is a brief description of about 155 characters or less that details what’s on the page, what you can expect from it, and even a call-to-action to click through. The content in the meta description should entice someone to click through the the website. It’s advisable to include a keyword in the meta description as that will appear bold and draw additional attention from the user.
While meta descriptions aren’t used by search engines to rank your website, they heavily influence engagement. Engagement is a factor in your website’s ranking, so a solid, effective meta description is essential.
How are Meta Descriptions Used?
- Meta descriptions are used in a variety of ways, and each use has a purpose.
Increasing the number of organic search visits. As mentioned earlier, the meta description influences the click-through-rate of your website. The more organic search visitors you have coming to your website, the better. The visitors are both free to you and typically more interested in your services because they went searching for them.
- Reach the right people. A well-crafted meta description should speak to the people who are most likely to use your services. This might mean booking a dental cleaning, scheduling a cosmetic surgery consult, or simply contacting your office for more information. The right people turn into leads much faster than the wrong people.
- Entice people from other sources. Social media is a major referral source for many websites, including medical websites. After all, if a patient is satisfied with your service and care, chances are he or she will spread the news to their network of friends. Creating meta descriptions that get people to click can greatly increase the probability of people clicking from social media. These referrals are incredibly valuable because they come to you with an idea in their mind of how you can help them and how you’ve helped someone they know.
- Sell your services using the meta description. Your meta description should capture exactly what you’re offering and frame it in such a way that people will want to learn more about it and how you can help.
The Ins and Outs of Crafting a Meta Description
Developing a meta description that aligns with your search engine optimization strategy. Whether it’s a web page, blog post, or other pieces of online content, your meta description should follow some best practices to maximize its efficacy.
- Write good content. Your content should push people to want to learn more and take action. A compelling piece of content, no matter how brief, will move people because it offers value to them.
- Use keywords. It’s recommended you include anywhere from 1-2 keywords in your meta description. The keywords you use should be relative to the content on the webpage and whatever that page was designed to rank for. When including keywords, make sure the content reads naturally.
- Limit the length of your description. 155 characters should be the maximum characters you include. Anything more and your description will be cut off, leaving the visitor hanging.
- Avoid special characters like the hashtag or pound sign. Quotations can signal to Google that a meta description is complete. This could inhibit them from displaying the remainder of your description. When it comes to meta descriptions, keep them as simple as possible.
There is one instance when writing a meta description might not be worthwhile. If you’re targeting three or more keywords, it’s suggested that you allow Google to generate the description that best aligns with the query. This will help tailor the description to the visitor and possibly increase your chance of getting them to click through.
From a medical marketing perspective, your website needs to be easy to navigate and well designed. But without high-quality meta descriptions is nothing. Your patients deserve the most accurate and relatable content possible. A meta description that accurately describes your web content can help them discern whether what your page includes the information they’re looking for.
In addition to providing your prospective patients with a better experience, your meta description will help improve engagement metrics, give you an idea of what content and tones people respond to, and help you serve clients from the moment they first begin interacting with your business.