Those page descriptions below your links really matter. Meta descriptions are the 300 character snippets describing web pages that show up on search engine results pages (SERPs). These descriptions give people a summary about what your website page offers and acts to induce people to click through to visit your site. Don't think of meta descriptions as SEO tools but rather as clickability helpers and conversion tools. Google admits that they don't always use meta descriptions as a part of their ranking algorithm but they still support meta descriptions and offer the snippets on their results pages. If you're not putting effort into your meta descriptions, you could be missing out on quality website traffic that can bring in leads and customers. So, how can you produce meta descriptions that entice searchers to click?
Meta Descriptions are Part of Your Conversion Strategy
As mentioned above, a meta description is the snippet of information below the link of a search result. Its purpose is to describe the contents of the page to the searcher. The end goal is to convince and persuade the searcher to click through to your website. Any words that match the search term are bolded in the description.
For any given search engine results page, the percentage of clicks consistently drops off as you go further down the page, because a more relevant result is at the top of SERPs. So, if your result is closer to the bottom—or not even on the first page of results—you're already working at a disadvantage. This makes having a detailed, relevant, enticing and eye-catching meta description that much more important.
If you're at the top of the SERPs, the same logic applies: you want your meta description to be clear and convincing so that the searcher doesn't feel the need to scroll further looking for other results. Think about what people are searching for and and provide them with the answer to their question in your meta description. The better your meta description, the more likely it is that you'll have good click-through rates from organic search.
Another important reason to use meta descriptions is that the top social networks use them. Whenever you share something on Facebook or LinkedIn, your meta description will appear. If you don't have a meta description, the first few sentences will appear but might be cut off.
How to Write Great Meta Descriptions
Meta descriptions are a legitimate exercise in effective sales copywriting. Add words that describe value in your description. Give searchers a good reason to click on your result. Meta descriptions should do everything possible to persuade a searcher to click, while still maintaining accuracy so expectations are met. Here's how you can write meta descriptions that are clear, helpful and stand out.
Guide to Writing Meta Descriptions
There are some best practices regarding meta descriptions that you need to remember.
1. Always Feature a Meta Description
Your meta description is the short sales pitch for your website. Your meta description is your chance to win over prospects. Too many businesses leave this out and, in turn, miss out on a critical opportunity to improve click-through rates. Be sure to create an engaging meta description for your website that persuades people to choose you over your SERP competitors.
If you fail to put in a meta description for the pages you want to rank for, Google will display a snippet of text from the first paragraph of your page. If there's a search keyword in that text, it will be bolded but it may not be relevant to your page. This means that you might miss out on being able to sell to prospective buyers because you're attracting visitors with the wrong interests.
2. Use Action-Oriented Language
Action-oriented language is ideal for call-to-action copy—which is exactly what a meta description is—because it tells the reader exactly what they can do if they click. Consider starting your meta descriptions with verbs like "Learn," "Discover," or "Download" and follow it up with specifics of what exactly they'll get if they click.
3. Provide a Solution or Benefit
Tell the searcher what they can expect by clicking on your link. The last thing anyone wants is for the link they click on not to match their expectations. Write a short sentence previewing the content or telling the searcher why they should read your post. Give them a clear benefit of clicking through and reading your post. This is your chance to sell them on what you have to offer: your informative, valuable content. Use the keywords from the page title in your description.
4. Keep It Under 300 Characters
Generally, a meta description is under 300 characters including spaces but we advise to keep it between 150 to 160 characters. Google actually doesn't measure by characters, but by pixels and cuts off a meta description after a certain width. By sticking to below 160 characters, your persuasive description won't get arbitrarily cut off.
5. Don't Deceive Searchers
Your meta description should never deceive the reader with content that's not relevant to what they're expecting. Some meta descriptions are spammed with keyword-stuffed content. This probably stems from an old-school understanding of SEO and it's not going to work. When searchers and search engines see keyword-stuffed content, that throws up all kinds of red flags, and hurts the level of trust a searcher has in your content. Stuffing keywords into your meta descriptions won't do you any good. These descriptions need to focus on providing clear and concise copy about your page, so avoid overusing terms simply because you think it's what your audience wants to see. Meta descriptions are all about converting visitors.
6. Make It Specific and Relevant
The average searcher knows a predictable, generic meta description when they see it in the SERPs. That's why it's so important to use descriptive words, and do your best to connect with your buyer personas to let them know what they'll get from clicking through on your search result. Make sure the meta decription offers value and then follow through.