Do you put the same amount of effort into writing your meta descriptions as you do your web content? Your meta description is a mini sales pitch for your web page. So if it doesn’t attract attention, you’ve wasted a lot of valuable time writing content that may not even be seen. How do you write an effective meta description that will entice people to your page? We’ll get to that in just a moment. First, a quick recap…
What is a meta description?
A meta description is a short summary of the content on an individual website page. It is displayed on the search engine results page, below the links for each of the search results.
While the page title obviously plays a role in attracting visitors to your page (and that in itself could make a whole different article), your meta description is your shop window dressing. Its job is to advertise your web page to prospective visitors.
In other words, a strong meta description will increase click-throughs to your site from the search engines.
Never thought about it that way before? It’s time to start.
How long should a meta description be? There’s no definitive answer, but the general consensus is that a meta description should be about 150 characters (that includes punctuation and spaces). That’s about 20-25 words. Any longer than that and you’ll probably find your description cut short in the results page. But as there are other factors that come into play, like screen size and the fact that Google is thought to measure meta description length in pixels not characters, I would always try to aim for the lower end of the scale.
Here’s how to write strong meta descriptions:
Make it relevant
People will only click through to your page if they believe that the content on that page is going to be relevant to them. Don’t try to trick people into clicking through to your page with a meta description that has nothing to do with what’s on the page. No one likes clickbait. Deceiving prospective visitors will only send them straight back to search results and your bounce rates soaring.
Likewise, your meta description has also got to be relevant to your page title. If your page title tells people one thing and your meta description another, you’ll just confuse them. And that’s not a good recipe for a click-through. But don’t rehash your page title in your meta description either. You can safely assume that your prospective visitor has already read your page title before they read your meta description so you don’t need to repeat yourself.
Keep it simple and unique
Meta descriptions should tell a person quickly and clearly what that web page’s content is about. When you’ve only got 150 characters to work with, you’ve got to make every word count. Which means it should be kept simple and straight to the point. Your meta description will be competing with every other on the results page, and if your competitors are better, then that’s where your target audience is going to head. So to stand out, yours has to be unique. Look at the meta descriptions your competitors are using and try to find a different approach for yours.
That’s exactly what the meta description for the YouTube video below does. The search phrase I typed into Google was “how to learn jujitsu”. This meta description takes a completely different approach to its competitors. It cuts the fluff and gets directly to the point: “this guide shows you how to learn Japanese Jiu Jitsu.” Plain and simple. Even the one-word call to action is as short and simple as you can get! In this situation, the meta description didn’t even need to be creative to stand out from the competition. It just needed to get straight to the point.
Provide a solution
People are using a search engine for one reason: to solve a problem. Whether that problem is “how do I stop my kitchen tap from dripping?” or “where to find Pokemon” (really, it’s the first thing that comes up in Google at the moment when you type “where to” – try it) when people type their query in the search bar and hit that enter button, they want immediate answers. How will they know your web page is going to give them the solution to their problem? Because you are going to tell them it will in your meta description. Give your target audience a reason to visit your site. Address their problem. Then give them the solution. Popular Mechanics has got this one nailed below.
While your meta description has no SEO value, you should still use keywords in it. Google will bold any keywords used in the search phrase that your potential visitor used in their search. For example, if someone used the phrase “fast muscle gains” in their search, and your meta description says “Discover the secret to fast muscle gains with minimal effort here”, that’s going to get their attention faster than a meta description without that phrase, because it immediately lets them know that your content is relevant to them. It helps if you can try to get your key word or phrase in as near to the beginning of the meta description as possible. But don’t stuff it with keywords. Spammy looking meta descriptions will gain attention, but for all the wrong reasons.
Include a call to action
Don’t leave it up to people to figure out what it is you want them to do. Tell them. A strong call to action will tell people what to do next (i.e. it will prompt them to click-through) and can also provide more specific information about what your page has to offer. For example, “Download your free vegan recipe ebook here”. Use direct phrases like “click here to learn more” and “watch this video to find out how to…” to get your reader to take immediate action. You could even make your entire meta description one single call to action; “Read this now to discover why your meta descriptions are ruining your click-through rates”. Remember, you want to give people a reason to click your link. So a meta description that contains a command, like the Bodybuilding.com example below, is going to get more clicks than one that doesn’t tell the reader what to do.
Don’t be one of those people that shove their meta descriptions in as an afterthought. A well crafted meta description will entice more visitors to your site and ultimately give you better end results – provided the copy on your page is up to scratch of course! But you can learn more about that here.
It’s easy to overlook the importance of your meta description when you’ve been busy concentrating on other things like creating high quality content and optimising your website to perfection. But if you neglect your meta descriptions, your content and optimisation won’t work as well as you think it will.