A meta description is a short written piece (usually around 320 characters) that serves as a description of a particular piece of content. Meta descriptions are placed in the HTML coding of a webpage and are what will appear when your content comes up in a search engine. It is also the “snippet” or description that appears when others share your content across the web.
A meta description is an integral component of SEO effectiveness, and the wording in it can determine how visible your content is during a web search. This snippet of information will not only explain the content that it is connected to, but it will also determine how easy information on your site is to find.
The key to Great SEO is to do all that you can to ensure that a link to your content appears as close to the top of a web search page as possible. Web users are less likely to click on links further down a page, because the nature of web searching is to find information fast, and what is faster than clicking on the first link of the page?
For this reason, a meta description should balance engaging writing with plenty of SEO so that it appears higher on the search engine list and is intriguing enough to draw in web users. Meta descriptions on mobile may be slightly different to meta descriptions on the Web or desktop devices. Clarity in your meta description is just as important as SEO since, for one, Google tends to weed out links that are a jumble of obvious SEO keywords with no real sense and because even if your link shows up at the top of the search engine list, if its description is incoherent, then people will be less likely to follow the link.
Why is a meta description important?
Meta descriptions determine two things: how visible your overall content is to web users who are conducting a web search and how likely those users are to click on the link leading to your content. This is a tenuous balance that requires both the ability to carefully tie in keywords to a piece while keeping the writing interesting and clear.
These short snippets of information seem simple, but that is exactly what makes them difficult to craft efficiently. Essentially, you are looking at writing a highly engaging tweet that could potentially be seen by millions of people and has to have the power to draw them in to learn more about what you are offering. So “simple”, and yet utterly necessary and important if you wish to be successful.
How do you write a great meta description?
The core of a meta description centres on good salesmanship, as you are essentially created an advertisement that is meant to appeal to potential customers. Therefore, you want your meta description to clearly state your intentions in a way that combines direct marketing with some creative flair.
1. Use Active Voice with Action Oriented Signals.
If you have ever attended a college or university writing class, you will hear non stop how detrimental “passive voice” can be to a written work. This is particularly true when it comes to advertising language because passive voice leaves room for doubt, which you certainly do not want.
Stick to short, strong verbs when writing your meta description and always seem confident and firm. “Learn” instead of “Might Learn” and the like. Then, be specific: what will your potential customer learn? For a meta description, especially because it is so short, do not waste too much time on flowery language that does not get a clear point across. Make your statement and make sure that it is easily and quickly understood. Once you draw a potential customer deeper into the site, you can back off the strictness of this model a bit.
2. Give Solutions or Benefits and Be Honest.
With your active tone and action-oriented signals, you must convince your potential customer that clicking on your link and exploring your website is in their best interest. Tell them what to expect in clear, concise language and how whatever you are offering with benefit them in some way or solve a problem that they have been struggling with.
If you have a legitimate business, then you have no reason to be deception or negative in your descriptions of your content. So take what you know about what your business offers and explain it to your potential customers in a way that is both to the point and yet honest. After all, if you choose to use deceit in your meta description and the web user clicks on the link, they are just as likely to quickly hit that “back” button once they realize that they are not where they want to be. This can be just as damaging to your site and your business as them not clicking on the link at all (and potentially even worse if they spread the deceit by word of mouth and convincing other potential customers to avoid your site and its content).
3. Emphasize the Positives.
Remember, most web users who are conducting internet searches are merely skimming through meta descriptions in their hunt for the information or products they are looking for. Therefore, you want to make sure that your meta description highlights positive aspects of your products or content in a clearly visible way.
If your meta description, for example, focuses on the negatives of a product or issue, then there is a good chance that the web user will mistake your site for something lying along the opposite end of the spectrum for what they are looking for. However, if you focus on the positive, then you are giving a clear indication that your site and its content is just what that web user needs.
To this end, the “half sentence” technique can be highly effective if used right. This technique is essentially the means of creating a tiny ad line in your meta description that can more easily stick out to those viewers skimming through a lot of information. Something like “BEST MALE SUPPLEMENT ALL AROUND” or “MOST DURABLE TABLET YET” are half sentences that lack proper grammar, but pack a good amount of SEO into a simple phrase and quickly get your point across.
No matter what techniques you use, just remember that the key to a good meta description is that it will draw in interest and convince the web user to click on your link to learn more. If they search your site and decide that they want to look elsewhere, the fact remains that your successful SEO via your meta description has brought traffic to your site and will continue to do so.
4. Be Open and Cast Subtlety to the Side.
One last note on writing your meta description: it is important that you do not think being subtle or modest is a good idea. Imagine that you are pitching an idea to a potential investor and that you only have a couple of minutes to do so. What information is most important for you to get across? What does your investor need to know so that he or she will invest their time and money in your project?
A Meta description checklist
So now that you have a pretty good idea of what how your meta description should look, let us break down what we have discussed in the form of a checklist that you can use to write your own meta descriptions for your site content. The meta description best practices fit nicely into your overall marketing and within the framework of our SEO checklist. First, start by asking yourself these two questions:
What are you selling or offering to the public?
Why should anyone purchase from your or otherwise use your business?
The answer to these two questions is crucial to understanding how to utilize the advice above into crafting your meta descriptions. After all, if you do not have a clear idea of what you have to offer or why your offer is better than anyone else’s, then how can you sell your product or service? Once you have answered these questions, then you can move on to crafting the rest of your meta description:
Know your unique selling stance
Know your potential audience or customer base
Use active voice
Get to the point
Do not be subtle or modest
Put emphasis on positives
Employ “half sentences” when necessary or useful
What are some bad meta description practices?
We have mentioned a few of these “bad practices” above, but it is worth it to reinforce these bad habits so that you do not fall into them.
1. Avoid Keyword Stuffing.
No matter what else you do, you should not focus on stuffing your meta description with keywords that, when put together, make little to no sense. Not only will Google catch on to what you are doing, but web users are likely to either catch on as well or find what you are saying too difficult (if not downright impossible) to understand, which will certainly not engender them to visit your site.
SEO keywords are useful in helping you to up your search engine rankings, but they can also be quite harmful when abused. You need your writing to be clear, concise, and to the point in order to draw in your potential customers. They are not looking for a mess of keywords; they are looking for a business they can trust their time and money with.
2. Do Not Be Boring.
Just as it is much easier to keyword stuff, it is also easy to be so much “to the point” that you lose your audience’s interest before they even have a chance to click and discover more about your business. It is a delicate balance between being straightforward and being creative and engaging, but it is one that you must learn to walk if you want to be successful with your SEO effectiveness.
Depending on your business and what you are offering to potential customers, it is a good idea to focus on what those customers value and how they think. From there, tailoring your response in a way that will most directly appeal to that customer population will help you avoid seeming dull and increase your meta description’s effectiveness.
3. Do Not Try to Deceive Your Customer.
Again, if you run a legitimate business, you have no need to lie about your products or services to your potential customer base. Be honest and open about what you are offering, and your customers will come.
Examples of good meta descriptions
So we have talked a lot about what makes a good meta description (and what does not), but sometimes seeing is believing and understanding, so let us take a look at some quality meta descriptions:
From “SearchEngineJournal.com”, the following meta description sits under a link about “white hat SEO”:
“Learn which white hate techniques can have the greatest impact on your website and how you can double, triple, or even 10x your traffic.”
As you can see, this meta description uses active language that is direct, to the point, and full of positives appealing to the audience that would find this information most useful.
From “Insights.NewsCred.com” comes another good example:
“When it comes to content marketing, there are some universal best practices. Whether you’re a B2b or B2C brand, those tactics will set you up…”
This example gets cut off at the end, however, in a short amount of space and characters, the site is able to expertly weave in its SEO keywords and draw in general interest from potential customers.Any SEO professional writing good descriptive meta should learn to improve their snippet writing to get a better CTR.
Lastly, from “SoWorthLoving.com” is an excellent example of a more creative spin:
“NOTE: MOST DURABLE STICKER YOU’LL OWN! These stickers are the best little reminder to see every day.”
The half sentence at the beginning honestly says it all: if you need stickers, then you have found the place that sells the most durable type. And they are pleasant and fun, to boot!