SEO (search engine optimization) is crucial for any website to gain visibility today. A broad concept, SEO includes many elements, from meta descriptions to keywords, image optimization, backlinks, analytics, and everything in between. While the factors that matter have changed over time, meta descriptions are one element of SEO that has remained important through the years.
This guide is all about meta descriptions, or short HTML snippets that tell Google and other search engines what to expect from your page. Let’s take a look at why meta descriptions are important and how to write effective meta descriptions that encourage people to visit your page.
What are Meta Descriptions, and Why are They Important?
Meta descriptions explain what a page’s content is about. Search engines use the information (along with many other factors) to determine whether a page or post fits the search intent and should display on a search results page (SERP). Often, a search engine will even display your full meta description or part of it underneath the title in search results.
While you don’t need meta descriptions, technically, they can improve your overall SEO strategy. Search engines look for these pieces of information when someone searches a keyword. If yours matches, it could end up on the first page of results. Plus, your meta description — if written correctly — could entice searchers to click on your link before they click on others.
How to Write Effective Meta Descriptions
A meta description is one of the shortest pieces of content you’ll write, but it’s also one of the most important. With a few helpful tips and some practice, you can learn to write effective meta descriptions for every blog post and site page.
Here’s how to do it:
Step 1: Keep It Short, Clear, and Concise
Screenshot via Google
Meta descriptions can be tricky to write simply because they’re so short. You have limited space to be able to describe what your page is about.
A good meta description is usually up to 155 characters, although there is no set amount of characters that Google specifies. However, if your meta description is longer than this, Google could have a harder time determining what it’s about, which means it’s not as likely to display as you want it to in search results. Plus, if your page is displayed in the SERPs, your meta description will be cut off, making it difficult for searchers to decide whether it has the information they’re looking for.
Most importantly, keep it clear and concise. Your meta description should say what you want it to say in just one or two sentences with no extra fluff.
Step 2: Include Your Primary Keyword
Using your primary keyword somewhere in your meta description — even better if it’s toward the beginning — can increase the odds of Google matching your content when someone searches your keyword or a similar keyword.
However, sometimes a keyword can’t fit naturally into the limited space you have for a meta description. In that case, you can leave it out, but try to include a secondary keyword or a few single words with relevancy to your primary keyword.
Step 3: Make It Enticing
Screenshot via Google
An effective meta description should encourage searchers to click on your post, similar to the effect that an enticing headline has. Include copy that gets straight to the point, tells searchers what your content is about, and convinces them to click on your content rather than one of the other search results.
This could take some experimenting. Play around with ad copy for your meta descriptions until you find a formula that consistently does well.
Step 4: Match Your Content
A meta description should be a quick explanation of the information your page or post covers. Avoid making the description click-baity. Doing so might get you more traffic, but you’ll likely notice that your bounce rate takes a hit when people navigate quickly away from your page after not finding what they need. When that happens, Google may penalize you by not showing your content in search results as much.
Step 5: Keep It Unique
For pages with similar content, you might be tempted to write the same meta description. However, Google and other search engines want to know exactly what your page is about, including how it differs from the rest, to ensure that they pull relevant results for each search. Make sure each meta description is hyper-specific to its page content.
Also, drawing inspiration from meta descriptions that already show on results pages for your keyword is perfectly acceptable. However, you should avoid copying them or making yours too similar. Again, you want yours to be as unique as possible.
Step 6: Add a Call-to-Action
A good meta description includes a call-to-action that encourages searchers to click on your page.
Generally, splitting your meta description into two parts works well. For the first sentence, use compelling copy to explain what your page is about. Then, use the second sentence as your call-to-action encouraging searchers to click to learn something new or get what they need.
Meta Descriptions are Just One Piece of the Puzzle
Think of writing a meta description as a super-condensed version of your page content. Start with a description of what someone can learn on your page, and finish with a call-to-action that sparks interaction.
Now that you’ve got the basics of writing meta descriptions, dive into some other important SEO topics, like long-tail keywords and how to rank on Google. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that SEO is the only thing that matters when it comes to driving traffic or increasing brand visibility. Install social media share buttons on your blog or website to make it easy for those visitors you earned through SEO (and other tactics) to share your content with their own networks. All it takes is a single click for your visitors to spread the word!