One of the most important, yet overlooked aspects of SEO is the meta description. It is the bit of text that appears right under your website name in Google searches. Many web pages do not even have one. In this case, Google will take the first sentence on the page and display it as meta description. In this article, we will explain how to write meta descriptions that help boost your SEO effort and bring the right type of visitors on your website.
A Few Basic Facts about Meta Descriptions
First of all, let us talk a little about meta descriptions. They are an important part of on-page SEO for several reasons:
- They help Google understand what your page is about
- They allow you to promote your keywords
- They give users a summary of what they can expect to find on the page.
In terms of structure, a meta description should have between 150 and 160 characters. If you exceed this length, Google will cut short your sentence and display “…” after the 160th character. In some cases, even a word will be cut, leaving the reader wondering what the sentence means. This is why you should strive to keep all your meta descriptions within the specified parameters for length. If you use a SEO plugin for WordPress such as Yoast SEO, you will see a colour coded bar indicating the length of your meta description:
- Orange – too short
- Green – just right
- Red – too long.
The Key Elements of Effective Meta Descriptions
Now, before we dive into the tips to help you write meta descriptions that really work, let’s see what both Google and users look for. The main characteristics of effective meta descriptions are:
- Uniqueness – never use the same meta description for another page on your site
- Relevance – the meta description must be an accurate summary of the page content
- Interesting – strive to make your meta descriptions as engaging as possible, even for basic pages such as Contact and About Us
- Keyword optimised – do not overstuff meta descriptions with keywords, but focus on your main keyword and a secondary keyword (if you find it necessary)
- Natural language – the meta description should read like a regular sentence.
How to Write Meta Descriptions Like a Pro
With these preliminary details in mind, here are some useful tips to help you learn to write meta descriptions both for your target audience and for Google:
1. Use the Active Voice
Everything you write for marketing and advertising purposes must be in the active voice. If you use a free text checker such as the Hemingway App, you will notice that verbs in the passive voice get a penalty and your text gets a poor rating for readability.
When you write meta descriptions, you want users to take action – to click on your URL and visit your website. The passive voice has no effect on people. They do not feel compelled to do anything, so they keep scrolling down the Google results page.
2. Include a Call to Action
Whenever possible, include a CTA in your meta description. “Learn how to write meta descriptions” is such a CTA. Other simple and effective CTAs you can use are:
These are words that trigger the need to act in readers. They are also useful in ads and in landing pages.
3. Make the User Curious…But Don’t Overpromise
Words like “exciting”, “incredible”, “amazing” make people curious to find out more about a topic. However, don’t get carried away when you write meta descriptions. Make sure that the content of the web page is actually worth such bombastic promises.
Nothing will turn a visitor away from your site faster than clickbait. It’s become rampant across social media platform and tabloid press. This is why, many people are wary about any headline or meta description that sounds as if a new wonder of the world has been discovered.
4. Consider the User Search Intent
One of the copywriting tips we give our clients is to create content for each stage of the user’s search intent journey:
- Informational (minimum coverage car insurance)
- Commercial (car insurance brokers near me)
- Transactional (best rates for car insurance).
Just as you pay great care to write content that answers the user’s questions at each stage of this journey, you must craft meta descriptions that reflect the user’s search intent. Otherwise, you may miss out on many opportunities of attracting a potential client,
5. Include Product Specifications
Product specifications help you attract the user’s interest and write meta descriptions that are not duplicates even for similar products. Imagine a company selling storage boxes. They are all cardboard boxes, made of recycled materials and easy to set up and dismantle. The only differences between them are the sizes. Thus, by adding the size of each box in the meta descriptions you can have unique content for each web page.
6. Use Your Brand Voice
Many companies are forgetting this basic element of good meta description writing: the brand voice. Although you should focus on keeping it as short as possible, do not make your meta descriptions bland and uninteresting.
As you attract more and more loyal customers, they will start recognising your tone of voice. If they do not perceive it everywhere – including in meta descriptions – they will feel that you are not really genuine and committed to your business values.
7. Update Meta Descriptions for Older Content
Last but not least, remember to write meta descriptions not only for new web pages, but also for older top performing content. Cornerstone blog articles, tutorials and evergreen content represent this category of content. With new meta descriptions, they will continue to rank high on Google and drive valuable traffic to your website.