Meta description is the short snippet of text which appears below a URL in the SERPs. It serves as ad copy for the web page by describing what users can expect to find there. A lot of webmasters forget to put in meta descriptions when crafting their pages. This might not seem like a major blunder, but it could severely be hurting your click through rates.
This guide will teach you how to write meta descriptions that get clicks.
Are Meta Descriptions a SEO Ranking Factor?
A long time ago, when SEO was still a fledgling, meta description used to count as a SEO factor. The problem with this is that meta descriptions are put in by webmasters. Obviously, this made it really easy to manipulate the SERPs. A decade ago, you could even see some really funny misuses of meta descriptions – such as a business putting in its competitors name in the meta description.
In 2009, Google released a statement confirming that they don’t use meta descriptions as a ranking factor. This caused a lot of webmasters to stop writing meta descriptions altogether. But, just because meta descriptions don’t directly count towards SEO rankings, it doesn’t mean they aren’t important for SEO. The goal of SEO isn’t just to get you to the top of the SERPs. It is to get you more search traffic. When your meta descriptions are compelling, you get more clicks – regardless of which position you happen to be in.
CTR is a SEO Ranking Factor
Meta descriptions might not directly affect your rankings, but they do affect your CTR – which is one of the user metrics which factor into SEO rankings. True, CTR might not be a huge SEO factor. But, when you are working in a competitive industry, every little bit helps.
Rules of Writing Killer Meta Descriptions
1. You MUST Write a Meta Description!
A lot of SEO experts will say that it is sometimes okay to leave out meta descriptions. They argue that it might be better to let Google take the meta description from your webpage, such as if you are targeting multiple keywords or long-tail keywords. But this advice is outdated. It falls back on the old school SEO mindset which puts all emphasis on keywords.
The point of a meta description is to presell your web page to users so they click on it. Do you really want to leave this to chance? I didn't think so. So always write a meta description!
2. Maximum Meta Description Length of 156 Characters
Each search engine is a bit different, but most will cut off your meta description after 150 characters. The general consensus among SEO experts is that the best length for meta description is 156 characters.
3. Think about Your Goal, NOT Keywords
When you have keywords in your meta description which match the search query, Google will bold those words. This helps your listing stand out in the SERPs and also helps show searchers that they’ve found the right page. So, it is generally good practice to get keywords into the meta description. But don’t make the mistake of thinking about keywords when writing the meta description!
A keywords-focused approach to writing meta descriptions is problematic for a few reasons. First of all, you are probably targeting multiple keywords and a bulk of your traffic comes from long-tail keywords. You can’t get all of those terms into 156 characters. Secondly, you probably already got your keywords in the title tag and the URL. Put it into the meta description too, and we are starting to get a bit repetitive here!
A much better way of writing meta descriptions is to think how will the meta description help you meet your goal. While your webpage may be targeting multiple keywords, it probably only has one main goal (to get a new signup, to sell a product, to get someone to call…).
Want someone to buy your product? Then mention “lowest prices” or “free shipping” in the meta description.
Want someone to call your local business? Then put your phone number in the meta description!
4. Meta Descriptions Don’t Need Calls to Action, They Need to Be ACTIONABLE
One common piece of advice about writing meta descriptions is to include a Call To Action, such as “Learn more”. In some cases, CTAs are very effective at increasing CTR in the SERPs. In other cases, using CTAs are downright corny. Instead of trying to squeeze a CTA at the end of your meta description, focus on writing an actionable meta description. What is meant by actionable? This can best be described as meta descriptions which use action-based language (powerful verbs).
For example, if you’ve got a web page which talks about how great broccoli is, you could write something like "Learn the health benefits of broccoli, how it fights cancer, and 10 easy broccoli recipes which taste great." This meta description is a heck of a lot more actionable than something like "Broccoli has many health benefits, fights cancer, and tastes good in these 10 recipes. Learn more."
5. Emphasize Your Value Proposition
This is especially important when writing meta descriptions for your homepage or any products/services you sell. Check out how it is done in these examples of meta descriptions from major companies.
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