HostGator Web Hosting Blog | Gator Crossing

HostGator Blog

Web Hosting Made Easy!

  • How Do Search Engines Work?

    Tuesday, July 17, 2018 by
    how do search engines work

    SEO 101: How Search Engines Work

    So much of your business depends on being visible in the search engines. You’d like to try to understand this thing that has so much power over your success. But figuring out how search engines work can be really confusing. And it’s not just you. There’s a whole industry based around trying to understand which sites rank for which reasons, and even the information we do know is changing all the time. We can’t provide an extensive rundown of how the Google algorithm works for you (no one can), but we can provide some basic information on how search engines work that may help remove some of the mystery. Here are a few of the main things you should know. HostGator Website Builder

    The Search Engine’s Goals

    The first thing to understand about how search engines work is that their priority is providing the best possible results for what the searcher is looking for. When it comes to the natural results, the search engine is not concerned about how much a particular website owner might want to grab those top spots or think you deserve it – they only care about the people searching. By providing the information people need, a search engine can ensure those people keep coming back to use the site again. We know how well that’s worked for Google – many of us use it every day. That primary goal leads into the secondary goal that generates the company’s profits: making money on ads. Businesses pay to advertise on search engines in large part because they know a huge number of people use them every day. As long as Google keeps its users satisfied and coming back, advertisers will continue to keep the company profitable. So the search engine’s main concern is therefore how to make sure the results it delivers provide the most useful information for the consumer’s query. That’s where things start to get complicated.  

    Search Engine Index

    For a search engine to be able to identify the right web page for every possible query (or come as close as possible to such a lofty goal), it has to have a record of all the possible web pages online, along with some understanding of what’s on each of them. To do that, search engines create a massive index of web pages. This index attempts to identify and organize every website and web page on the web in a way that allows it to draw connections between the keywords people search for and the content included on each page. On top of all that, it needs to be able to assign relative quality to different web pages that cover the same topic.  This is tricky since all of this is happening with machines. People have a hard enough time agreeing on what constitutes “quality” content, but search engines have to determine it based on factors that machines can measure objectively.  

    Website Crawlers

    The first challenge of creating a search engine index is identifying all the web pages out there. This part of the job is up to website crawlers. Each time a website crawler discovers a page, it crawls the page, collecting all the relevant information on it needed for the search engine index. With that page added to the index, it then uses every link on that page to find new pages to crawl. how search engine web crawlers work Website owners can speed up the process of getting a website crawled by the search engines by submitting a sitemap and using internal linking. This is the easy part.  

    Search Engine Algorithms

    The second challenge of the search engine index is the much more complicated one: attributing relative value to all of the web pages. If the website crawler finds 100,000 pages that include content on them it deems relevant to a specific term, how does the search engine decide what order to deliver those results in? That’s where the search engine algorithm comes into play. Engineers at each of the big search engine companies have spent untold hours developing a complicated algorithm that uses a number of factors to assign relative value to websites and web pages.  

    Ranking Factors

    While there are many different factors that go into determining exactly why one page will rank over another – many more than we can summarize here, and more even than the greatest SEO expert knows – we have an idea of some of the most important search engine ranking factors Google and the other search engines take into account:
    • Links – Links are the most important ranking factor, especially external links (those that point from one site to another) because every time another website links to yours, it signals to Google that there’s something authoritative or valuable on the page being linked to. When a web page that has a lot of other websites linking to it links to another site, that link is even more valuable because of the high authority the website already has. While everything else on this list matters, a LOT of determining rankings is based on the number and quality of links that point to a website.
    • Website age – Older websites are generally seen as being more trustworthy and authoritative than new ones.
    • Keywords – Search engines are always trying to provide the most relevant results, so they look for terms on the page related to the query of the person searching. The more you use related keywords, the more it signals to the search engine that your content is relevant.
    • Mobile usability – Google has been upfront about using mobile usability as a ranking factor. If your website looks awesome on desktop, but has never been optimized for mobile use, then it could hurt you in the rankings.
    • Page speedPeople are impatient and therefore so are the search engines. A slow-loading page will rank lower because of it.
    • Behavior data – Google tracks what people do once they get to the search engine results page (SERP). If someone clicks on a page and immediately backtracks – that’s a signal that the page didn’t provide what they were looking for. If instead they spend time on the page or even click through to different pages on the site once they get there, then it shows Google that the site provides value.
    Google and the other search engines have provided some information about the ranking factors they use, but they generally keep pretty quiet about how their search engine algorithms work. They don’t want people trying to manipulate the results – something that’s long been a problem with black-hat SEO practitioners.  

    Search Engine Optimization

    While there’s definitely a lot we don’t know about how search algorithms work, everything we do know has come to form the basis of the whole field of search engine optimization. SEO is competitive and you’re limited in what you can do to grab the rankings you most want for the keywords relevant to your business, but there’s still a lot you can control and do. Our series on SEO basics will dive deeper into some of the ranking factors you can control and how to optimize your website to perform better in the search engines. Check back soon for the rest of the series. Don't miss the rest of the articles in our SEO 101 series! Want to boost your website rankings? Get expert help with HostGator's SEO services.
  • Website Architecture: 6 Best Practices for SEO

    Tuesday, July 17, 2018 by
    website architecture best practices

    SEO 101: Best Practices for Website Architecture

    Some websites start simple with just a few pages and little by little over the years grow into something big, complicated, and unorganized. If you don’t take time to think about your site structure early on, it’s easy for your site to grow into something chaotic before you realize it. A badly organized site is confusing for the user, hard for the website owner to manage, and bad for SEO. Whether you’re reading this soon after launching a new website or already have a years-old website that’s grown unwieldy, it’s worth taking time now to define your website architecture. It’s important for improving your SEO, and it will make your life easier when maintaining the site in the years to come. HostGator Website Builder

    What Website Architecture Means

    Website architecture is the structure you use to organize your website. For most websites, your site hierarchy should have a pyramid structure:
    • At the top is your home page, which is the most important page on the website.
    • The next level below that will include the next most important pages, so those that you want to see in your website’s main menu. That probably means your About page and the few main category pages that most of your products and content will fall into.
    • Below that will be any relevant subcategories that go under each category, followed by the individual pages that are all organized into the relevant categories you’ve defined, such as product pages.
    best website architecture for seo A website architecture helps you organize your website so that you’re giving priority to the most important pages in terms of visibility on the site while ensuring that every page is easy for visitors to navigate to when it’s what they’re interested in.  

    Why Your Site Hierarchy Matters for SEO

    To start, a well-organized website is easier for users to navigate. Given that Google cares about metrics that indicate a good user experience, such as bounce rates and the amount of time a visitor spends on the website, making it easy for your visitors to find what they’re looking for will pay off in improved behavior metrics. In addition, a clear site hierarchy makes your website easier for Google to crawl. By using intuitive, clear categories and subcategories, Google’s bots will have an easier time understanding the layout of the site, which pages are the most important (those high-level categories), and seeing how different pages relate to each other. That information helps Google better figure out what your website is about and what search terms your pages should show up for.  

    How to Build an Intuitive Site Hierarchy

    The earlier you define your site hierarchy, the easier it will be to keep your website organized in a way that’s intuitive and good for SEO. If you already have a large site, then you may have to do some work upfront to move all of your current pages into the new structure, but once your structure is in place, sticking with it in the future will be easy.  

    1. Create an organization plan.

    The first step is to sit down and figure out how best to organize your website. If you have a small site with fewer than 10 pages, then this part should be fairly simple (although it’s still important to do!). If you have a larger website with dozens or hundreds of pages, it will be a little more complicated. Aim to keep your site hierarchy as simple and straightforward as possible. Unless you have a particularly large site with thousands of pages a la Amazon, your hierarchy shouldn’t go more than three levels deep.  Ideally, a user should never be more than three clicks away from any other page on the website. Your site hierarchy will also help with element of your SEO we’ve covered in a separate blog post: your URL structure. For most online stores, the category name is included in the URL for each product page in the category. If we take an online bookstore as an example, if the website has a category for Textbooks with different subjects as subcategories underneath, the URL for a math textbook would look something like: www.book-website.com/textbooks/mathematics/name-of-specific-textbook.html This provides an extra SEO bonus, as categories become extra keywords in the URL that help Google understand what each page is about and which search terms it should rank for.    

    2. Define your primary categories.

    Think carefully about the main categories you can divide your pages into that are:
    1. Descriptive of what the different pages and products are
    2. Intuitive to any visitor to your website.
    As an example, for an online bookstore it may be possible to divide your products into categories like length or the color of the book covers, but most visitors to the website will find it more intuitive to see your products divided into categories like Fiction, Nonfiction, and common genres.    In other words, don’t choose your categories arbitrarily; they should be based on information that’s valuable to your end user. Think first about the way they search and browse, then structure your website based on that.  

    3. Define any relevant subcategories.

    Not all websites will need subcategories within the larger categories, but many will. Using the example of our online bookstore, Fiction and Nonfiction are both huge categories on their own. Visitors will have a much easier time finding a book they like if they can browse more specific subcategories like Science Fiction or Memoir. As with your primary categories, try to think like your customers in determining the most useful subcategories to include. You want them to be specific enough to be useful, but not so specific that your categories become bogged down in lots of words and details. For our purposes here, Science Fiction is a better category than YA Dystopian Books with a Female Lead (although the latter could make a good topic for content).  

    4. Minimize the number of clicks between pages.

    One of the benefits of a good site hierarchy is that it helps you create a site menu that makes the website easier for people to navigate without losing sight of other key parts of the website they may want to navigate to. If people can see the main menu on every page of the website, and see the relevant subcategories as a dropdown menu when they scroll over it, then you make it easy for people to move through your website without having to use the back button or do a lot of clicking around. This helps with the goal we discussed above of keeping every page on the website within three clicks of every other page. As you work out your site structure, pay attention to whether or not there are any pages or sections of the website that are more than three clicks from each other. If there are, then re-think your structure to correct that.  

    5. Strategically use internal linking.

    Internal links are an important SEO tool that help Google to more efficiently index your website and understand the relationship between your different pages. And since you have total control over the anchor text for internal links (the words that are hyperlinked and show up underlined in blue), they give you the chance to tell Google specific keywords to associate with the page.   Internal linking is also useful for your visitors. When they find a page on your website helpful, they can trust that the links on that page will bring them to more information that’s also relevant and useful. It gives you a way to guide them from page to page and increase the traffic of related pages on your website. As an added bonus, when you have a page that’s doing especially well in the search engines, internal linking is a way you can spread some of that page’s authority around. By linking to other pages on your website on the page that Google’s decided is authoritative, it boosts their authority as well. As with most SEO tacticss, you have to be careful not to overdo it with internal linking. Only use it when it’s relevant and helpful to visitors.  But if you keep an eye out for relevant internal linking opportunities, you’ll find that there are plenty of times you can use internal links without getting spammy about it.  

    6. Make use of 301 redirects.

    Creating a site hierarchy and re-arranging your website to fit it will likely mean moving some pages to new URLs. Anytime you change a web page’s URL – for this reason or any other – make sure you use a 301 redirect. If the page you moved has built up any link authority, you don’t want to lose it. A 301 redirect lets Google know that the web page at the new URL is the same one that people liked and linked to at the old URL. And importantly, it means that potential visitors can still find the page they’re looking for rather than ending up on an error page. Broken links create a bad user experience, something you always want to avoid.  

    Defining Your Website Architecture

    Creating a site hierarchy is a useful exercise for clarifying what you want your website to look like and how it should be organized. It’s an important step for on-site SEO, but it’s also a good practice for keeping your website organized and intuitive for both your users and yourself. Good website organization has no downsides and plenty of upsides. Don't miss the rest of the articles in our SEO 101 series! For more help improving your SEO rankings, get in touch with HostGator's expert SEO services.
  • How to Write Title Tags for SEO: 5 Best Practices

    Tuesday, July 17, 2018 by
    how to write good title tags

    SEO 101: How to Write Compelling Title Tags

    One of the first things most website owners learn about SEO is how little power you truly have. A lot of what determines where your website’s pages will show up in the rankings is outside of your control. But those limitations make it all the more important to do what you can with the parts you can control. Every business can at least practice good on-site optimization. It’s a relatively cheap and easy way to give your website an edge over the (surprisingly) numerous sites that don’t bother to do it. One of the most important on-page ranking factors you have control over is the title tag. best WordPress hosting

    What is a Title Tag?

    On the search engine results page (SERP), the title is the main part of a site’s listing. It shows up in blue, in bigger font than everything else, and is hyperlinked back to your website. title tag in search results On your website, the title shows up in the tab at the top of the browser (although it’s normal for a lot of it to be cut off from view here). title tag in browser The title tag is the spot in the html where you define what will show up in these places. Generally you add it to the html in the page header with a tag that looks like: <title> Title of Your Page </title> title tag in source code If you use WordPress and have an SEO plugin, you can skip the html and add the title tag to your page by filling in the field that’s labeled “Title” or “Title tag” in your plugin. add title tag with wordpress seo plugin

    Why Title Tags Matter

    Google’s goal is to deliver up results that are relevant to the searches people make. For the search engine to do that, it has to recognize what different pages on the web are about. Google discovers this information by looking at the words used on the page, but it also gives certain parts of the page more weight than others in determining the page’s content. The title tag is one part of the page that’s given a lot of weight by search engine algorithms in determining what a page is about, since it’s a short and simple way for website creators to signal what’s on the page that follows. For that reason, title tags are one of the most important on-page ranking factors. But beyond the role they play in ranking, they’re also extremely important for getting people to click on the link once it shows up in the search results. The title is the first and most obvious part of the listing they see – it’s big, it’s blue, and people expect it to provide the main information they need about what’s on the page behind that link. Ultimately, itle tags aren’t just about improving rankings, they’re about getting people to click once your webpage does show up in the search engine – which what you care about the most. And they do make a difference in that. In one case study, Ahrefs found that improving the title tag of a webpage led to a 37% increase in web traffic to that page. If you aren’t optimizing your title tags, you’re missing a big opportunity.  

    5 Tips for Writing Title Tags

    To make the most out of the space you have for title tags, follow a few best practices.  

    1. Write unique titles for every page.

    Every page on your website is unique and your title tags should reflect that. Make sure you customize the title tags on each page of your website so that they accurately describe what’s on that specific page. You want your title tag to signal to Google what the individual page is about. Plus, having a clear and accurate title is more useful to anyone who sees the page in the search listings.  

    2. Pay attention to length.

    Google will display 50-60 characters of a title tag in the search results before cutting it off, so you should generally aim for title tags that are around 50 characters or less. To be safe, you want the most important or descriptive words in the keyword toward the beginning so they’re less likely to get cut off. If you like to include your brand name in every title tag (which can be a good idea for recognizable brands), put it at the end, behind the words that describe what’s on the specific page. add brand name to end of title tag

    3. Use your target keyword (but don’t overdo it).

    Every page on your website should answer a question or provide valuable information someone will be searching for. Your website will be more useful to those people if it shows up in search for the right term – just when they’re looking for the information you provide.  So for each page, you should have a target keyword (or a few) in mind. Since Google’s algorithm uses the title tag as one of the main ways to determine what a page is about, it’s a good opportunity for you to include the main keyword you’re targeting for that page. That makes it clear to Google that this page is relevant for anyone searching for that specific term.  

    4. Be descriptive of what’s on the page.

    When your web page does show up in search, a lot of people will decide whether or not to click based on your title tag. If they click and come to a web page that isn’t what they expect based on the title, they’ll likely click that back button right away and look for another result to try. You want your title tag to provide an accurate description of what people will see when they choose to visit the web page. When people’s expectations match what they see on the page, it means a lower bounce rate and a longer time spent on the site – metrics that signal to Google your page is valuable and should keep ranking high. More importantly, it creates a better experience for your visitors. You want every visitor to like what they see and hopefully come back for more.  If your title tag isn’t clear, that’s less likely to happen.  

    5. Make a (brief) case for what’s on the page.

    You don’t have a lot of space for this, but use what you have to differentiate what makes your web page so great. Often this can be accomplished by adding an adjective in front of the descriptive keyword or additional description behind it.  For blog posts and articles, a good title tag often looks a lot like a good headline, so you may be able to use the headline you’ve already written. Make sure you really think about what on the page is most valuable or important to your target audience. Your title tag should emphasize the value your page provides to them.  

    Title Tags: Short, but Powerful

    Title tags are a short and therefore deceptively simple part of SEO. Just because they don’t require writing much, don’t assume they’re something you should treat as quick and easy. Take some time to really think about the best words to use to signal to Google what the page is about and to communicate to potential visitors what’s valuable on the page. Your title tag has to do both at once. If you get it right, it can improve your rankings and increase your click-through rates. Don't miss the rest of our SEO 101 series! Want expert help improving your SEO rankings? Get in touch with HostGator's expert SEO services.
  • What’s the Best URL Structure for SEO?

    Tuesday, July 17, 2018 by
    best url structure for seo

    SEO 101: What's the Best URL Structure for SEO?

    Many of your visitors will come to your website by clicking on a link, so you may wonder if it really matters what’s in the actual URL of a specific page. It may surprise you to know that when it comes to on-site SEO, what your URLs look like is actually really important. Creating a blog

    What is URL Structure?

    Your website URL works as your address on the web. It’s the most direct way for someone to visit a page on your website. If you’re not familiar with the term, the URL is the thing that starts with either www or http. what is a url In the early stages of starting a website, you want to sit down and figure out a standard structure for your website URLs. (If your website is already established and growing, it’s not too late to do this now, it just might require more work.) Your URLs always start with the root domain for your website (e.g. www.yourwebsitename.com), so what you want to define is what follows for individual pages. Your URL structure will directly relate to your larger site architecture. You want your URLs to both reference what’s on the specific page, as well as help situate the website visitor to where this page belongs on the larger website. For example, the URL for a post on your blog should look something like this: www.yourwebsitename.com/blog/nameofyourblogpost  At a glance to the URL, any visitor who reached the post through an outside link would quickly be able to see that they’re on a blog, as well some basic information about the specific blog post on the page.  

    Why Does URL Structure Matter?

    Your URL structure matters for a few key reasons.
    1. First, for Google to consistently deliver relevant results to searchers, it has to know what each page in its index is about. The URL is one of the most important parts of the page Google looks at to determine what a page is about.
    2. Next, an intuitive URL structure makes your site easier to navigate for users. If someone browsing a retail website for clothes finds themselves on the page www.clothesretailer.com/womens/dresses/nameofspecificdress, they know the page belongs in the two categories that precede the final part of the html: women’s clothes and dresses. Savvy web users also know they can delete the last couple of parts of the URL (dresses/nameofspecificdress) to get back to the larger selection of women’s clothes.
    3. And lastly, the same thing that makes a good URL structure intuitive for users is good for search engines too. The search engine crawler can more easily make the relevant connections between different pages on your website  - it can see that a particular item belongs in the same category as other dresses (even if “dress” isn’t in the product name), which belong in the larger category of women’s clothes on the site – information that helps the crawler better understand what different sections of the website are about and how they relate to each other.
    As an added benefit, having those extra categories precede the specific keyword or product name in your URL adds in some extra relevant keywords without creating a URL that’s spammy.  That gives Google just a little bit more information to make sure it understands what’s on the page and knows what keywords the page should show up in search for.  

    7 Tips for Creating a Good URL Structure

    The URL is a pretty basic part of on-site optimization, but one that it’s important to get right.  Here are a few good ways to make sure you use your URLs wisely.  

    1. Always edit a page’s URL to be relevant.

    A surprising number of websites will still use automatically generated URLs that look like a string of gibberish. That’s skipping a big SEO opportunity, while also creating a more confusing experience for your visitors. The first and most important thing you need to do for your website’s URLs is to simply commit to customizing each one based on what’s on the web page.  

    2. Follow a standard URL structure.

    As discussed above, this will relate to your website’s overall organization and is an important rule to follow. Determine what categories and subcategories you’ll be using and how you’ll portray them in the URLs of web pages that belong in each category. Be careful not to let things get too complicated here – too many categories will bog down your URLs and make them confusing rather than helpful: www.clothesretailer.com/womens/dresses/nameofspecificdress is an intuitive URL structure, while www.clothesretailer.com/womens/dresses/short-sleeves/purple/floral/knee-length/nameofspecificdress is taking things too far. Stick to the main categories that are important for making your website more intuitive in its organization, and be as consistent as possible in the URL structure you use across the site.  

    3. Keep it short and simple.

    Good URLs are short and to the point. Make sure you aren’t filling yours with any unnecessary words or characters, and avoid keyword stuffing. Having the same keyword in your URL more than once won’t do you any good. While most of your visitors will use links or bookmarks to access specific pages of your website rather than going to the URL directly, you want it to at least be plausible that someone could remember a specific URL if they wanted to.  

    4. Use your primary keyword.

    For every page on your website, you should have a primary target keyword in mind that you want it to rank for in the search engines. Obviously this should be something that specifically describes what’s on the web page, while also being a common term used by people looking for what’s on the page. Make sure your primary keyword is part of the page’s URL. It may work to simply use the keyword as the part of the URL specific to your page (e.g. www.yourwebsitename.com/relevant-category/primary-keyword). If the web page is for an article or blog post, the main words in the article’s headline can usually be pulled out to make a strong headline that includes the primary keyword and clearly describes what’s on the page. For example, a post called 10 Tips to Find the Perfect Summer Dress that has the target keyword “summer dress”, could become the URL www.clothesretailer.com/blog/find-perfect-summer-dress  

    5. Use hyphens to separate words.

    You can’t include spaces in a URL, so SEO best practice is to use hyphens to separate words. This will signal to Google where the breaks between words are, and make it easier for your visitors to understand URLs than if the words all ran together.  

    6. Remove stop words.

    You want URLs to be short and simple, which means you never need things like pronouns and articles. So when translating a page title into a URL structure, drop any common stop words in the title, such as: a, the, and, or, but, an, of, etc.  

    7. Use canonical tags where needed.

    This part’s a little more technical, but still important. You don’t want Google registering different versions of the same page on your website as distinct pages. So if you have the same web page that’s tied to more than one URL for any reason, you’re diluting its SEO value. The most common version of this is when you have web pages for both http://yourwebsite.com and www.yourwebsite.com, or if you have a secure version of a page at https://yourwebsite.com along with the two versions mentioned above. Whatever the reason, you want each URL for the same page to be consolidated in the eyes of Google so that a link back to one of them counts for all versions. You can communicate that to Google by using the canonical tag on every variation of the page that clarifies which URL should be considered the main URL to represent all versions.  

    Setting Your URL Structure

    Getting a standard URL structure into place can take some time and planning, but once you have your main structure defined, picking the right URL for each web page on your site can be one of the easiest parts of on-site SEO. Make sure you customize your URLs for best results every time. It’s an easy way to improve your SEO and create a better visitor experience in a small way. Don't miss the rest of our SEO 101 series! Give your site a boost with HostGator's expert SEO services. Learn more here.
  • How to Write the Best Meta Descriptions for SEO

    Tuesday, July 17, 2018 by
    how to write good meta descriptions

    SEO 101: Writing the Best Meta Descriptions

    In our first post about SEO Basics, we talked a bit about the different search engine ranking factors. Now we’re going to go a little bit in a different direction to talk about meta descriptions.  

    What Is a Meta Description?

    Meta descriptions are the most important part of SEO that technically don’t have anything to do with rankings. On the search engine results page, every result is made up of at least three main parts:
    •      The linked title of the page
    •      The URL that shows up under it in green
    •      A line or two of text that describes what’s on the page
    example of search result with meta description That text is the meta description. In most cases, you can make sure the description here says what you want it to by using the meta description tag in your html. This looks like: <meta name=”description” content = “Your meta description”> and you can see it in the html for the website below: meta description in source code If you use a WordPress site and have an SEO plug-in, you can skip dealing with the html entirely and simply look for the “Description” field when filling in SEO information for each page. add meta description to wordpress page When you add a meta description to all your pages, it makes it easy for Google to decide what to display in the description section of the SERP for your webpage. It’s important to note that Google doesn’t pull from the meta description you provide 100% of the time. In some cases, it will pull from text on your webpage instead. Nonetheless, providing your own meta description is still a valuable part of on-site optimization for the search engines.     

    Why Meta Descriptions Matter

    As we established before, meta descriptions aren’t given any weight in how search engine algorithms decide which websites to rank for certain terms.  Getting that meta description just right won’t make any difference in terms of the search engine algorithm – so why is it still so important? Because your ultimate goal isn’t rankings, it’s clicks. The whole point of getting a good ranking in the search engines is to drive more clicks to your website, and your meta description gives you the opportunity to persuade searchers to click on your website instead of your competitors'. A good meta description can increase your click-through rate (CTR). And while Google doesn’t admit outright that CTR is a ranking factor in the search results, most SEO experts are convinced that CTR does influence rankings. If that is the case, then a strong meta description can directly increase traffic and indirectly increase your rankings – both goals that make spending time on your meta descriptions well worth it.   best WordPress hosting

    8 Tips for Writing the Best Meta Descriptions

    You don’t have a lot of space to work with for your meta descriptions, so you’ve got to make what you have count. Here are some of the best rules to follow to write meta descriptions that will get the job done.  

    1. Write a unique one for every page.

    Don’t write one meta description for your website and copy-and-paste it on every page. While that might be easy, it would mean wasting opportunities to sell what’s on each individual page to the people searching for precisely the information it provides. Commit time to writing a unique description for every page on your website based on the content that’s on it and the primary keyword the page is targeting.  

    2. Pay attention to length.

    In late 2017, Google increased the number of characters it displays for meta descriptions on the SERP from around 160 to 320. Then, in May 2018, they shortened them back to 160. That’s the maximum number of characters you should use, or part of your description will inevitably be cut off.  For each page, consider the most important message you should convey to get people to click through to the page. If you only need 100 characters to really sell what’s on the page, then don’t awkwardly prolong your meta description to use the full space. But in a lot of cases, having 160 characters to work with will give you more room to say what you need more persuasively, so take advantage of it where needed.  

    3. Use your target keyword naturally.

    When you look at the meta descriptions  in the Google search results, you’ll notice that anywhere the words included in your search show up, they’re bolded. meta description with keyword For the person searching, this can help you more quickly spot which results are most relevant. For the websites showing up in the results, that bolding is a way to stand out and draw the searcher’s eye to your result. While you can’t predict every specific term your website may end up ranking for, you can increase the odds of having bolded terms in your meta description on the SERP by making sure you include your target keyword in your description. But make sure you use it naturally – don’t force it. Keyword stuffing can make your meta description more confusing than helpful and end up hurting you.  

    4. Emphasize the value on the page.

    The whole point of your meta description is to work as a sales pitch for the web page. For each page on your website, carefully consider the biggest benefit it provides to visitors. That’s what you want to emphasize in your meta description. Make sure you think about it from the visitor’s point of view here. What problems does your web page content solve for them? What questions do they have that it answers? And importantly, what makes your page better than the similar results they’ll see alongside you on the SERP?  

    5. Represent the page accurately.

    Make sure your meta description accurately portrays what visitors will see when they click through. Gaining a click because you oversell or misrepresent what’s on the page is never worth it. You risk losing the visitor’s trust and will likely gain an increased bounce rate out of the deal. So make sure that your webpage can deliver on any claims you make in your meta description.  

    6. Use an action-oriented CTA.

    Calls to action often work best when they encourage people to do something active (hence the name). Use some of the characters in your meta description to urge people to click with action terms like “learn how,” “read more,” or “discover.”  

    7. Use schema markup when appropriate.

    One of the biggest changes to the SERPs since Google started has been the rise of rich snippets.  While they don’t show up for every search, for a number of types of searches, you’ll now see additional information included in the SERP listing, such as pricing for products or calories for recipes.
    meta description for ecommerce site with product schema meta description for recipe schema
    Get familiar with the different types of rich snippets and make a habit out of including schema markup on any web pages where the extra information is relevant and valuable to searchers.  

    8. Proofread!

    Hopefully. you already know to proofread all your web pages and content before they go live, but make sure you remember to do the same for your meta descriptions. If you’re writing dozens or hundreds of meta descriptions, it can be easy to forget this simple step, but if your big sales pitch on the SERP includes an embarrassing error, it could lose you clicks and hurt your reputation. Meta descriptions are important, but they’re just one small part of doing SEO well on your website. To strengthen your website’s chances of landing those coveted top spots in the search rankings, check out the rest of the articles in our SEO 101 series: Contact HostGator's expert SEO team for more ideas on how to improve your website's SEO.