SEO

Meta descriptions, though not directly related to search engine rankings, play an extremely important role in improving click-through rates from search engine results pages. In fact, research shows that achieving above-expected CTRs can result in better organic rankings, so by making meta descriptions more relevant to related search queries, webmasters stand to gain an indirect boost in organic search rankings.

Meta descriptions, though not directly related to search engine rankings, play an extremely important role in improving click-through rates from search engine results pages. In fact, research shows that achieving above-expected CTRs can result in better organic rankings, so by making meta descriptions more relevant to related search queries, webmasters stand to gain an indirect boost in organic search rankings.

What is a Meta Description?

Meta descriptions are intended to provide users with a snippet of what they can expect to find by clicking on your website. Meta descriptions appear beneath a websites URL in search engine results pages.

meta description example

In this example, we have highlighted the meta-description in yellow. As you can see, the meta description is a short snippet of text which we’ve used to incorporate a strong marketing message to encourage people to click through to our website.

How to Write a Meta Description

Factors to considerGuidance
Meta description length
Meta descriptions can be any length, but search engines will truncate (cut off) anything longer than around 160 characters. Know what your marketing message for each page is and communicate it clearly within this character limit.
Unique meta descriptions
Your meta description is a marketing message for the page to which it is associated. For this reason, we recommend that every meta-description is unique to the page and that it highlights the unique purpose or benefit that each page serves. More importantly, having duplicate meta descriptions can result in sub-optimal rankings for the pages in question.
Include a marketing message
Are you selling products or services, or is your page purely informational? What can the user expect to get from your page by clicking on it? Explain clearly why people should visit your website. Use your meta description as a marketing message and ensure it communicates the value the user will get from coming to you.
Incorporate a clear call to action
A clear call to action is more likely to elicit the response you want. For example, including a telephone number and the CTA ‘give us a call’ may eliminate the need for people to even load your website in order to find your contact information.
Include relevant keywords
If a search query closely matches your meta description, Google will highlight the search term in the description using bold formatting. This makes your listing more enticing to the user by pointing out the relevance to the search query. So think about the keywords you are targeting – which search terms do you hope to appear for? Use those terms in your description.

Why You Should Use Meta Descriptions

Creating meta descriptions can be a tedious task, especially for larger sites. However, there are various reasons why meta descriptions should be considered important by marketers.

Improve CTR

This is the number one reason why I urge marketers to spend time creating relevant meta descriptions for key pages. One tactic we often suggest to improve CTR is to combine keywords with emotional triggers or calls to action to create eye catching meta descriptions. Research has shown that emotions like anger, disgust, affirmation, and fear are proven to increase click-through rates. Moreover, if a search query closely matches keywords included in your meta description, Google will highlight those keywords within the description, as you can see below in the meta description taken from our SEO services page.

Search result matching search query

With this in mind, be sure your meta description uses the keywords you are targeting on any given page and is written in a way that will encourage searchers to click on your listing!

Social sharing

If you share a page on Facebook, it will look for what’s known as open graph markup on your website. If you do not have open graph markup, social networks like Facebook will use your meta description as the default description included within the link that has been shared.

leicester meta description

If you want your shared content to get the most possible clicks on social media, consider creating a strong meta description that will encourage clicks, just like you would do for a search engine results page.

It’s important to note that most open graph plugins generally auto fill the ‘og:description’ field using the meta description field, so you shouldn’t have to duplicate your efforts for search and social as long as you have a relevant meta description in place on each page.

If you wish to change your description for social sharing, you can use OpenGraph tags or Twitter Cards to your website.

Avoid Gobbledygook in Search Results

If you don’t include a meta description on your page, Google will simply grab the most relevant copy they can find on the page in question and display this in your description field. This often leads to truncated descriptions in the search results which will in-turn produce sub-optimal CTRs. 

If you have pages on your website with a low word count such as video pages, then Google will often crawl the first piece of code they can find on the page and return it in your search listing. You can see an example of this below:

irrelevant meta description

If your website has pages that have limited text based content then I would certainly recommend adding meta descriptions to those pages if you want to increase organic CTRs.

How to Change or Create Your Meta Description

Every page of your website should have its own unique meta description. If you don’t write your own, Google will create one for you by pulling information from the page content.

For us, creating or changing our meta description is a simple process as WordPress (our content management system) has been set up to allow this via SEO plugins.

If your website is also based on a CMS (i.e. you can log in to the ‘back end’ to add new content), you should be able to add meta descriptions to your pages relatively easily. For example, if you’re using WordPress, you can use Yoast.

If your website doesn’t have a CMS, you can affect your meta description using the description tag itself, which looks like this:
<meta name="description" content="Your meta description here"/>

Conclusion

Meta descriptions give you a chance to win over users browsing multiple search results, and in doing so improve the CTR of key pages on your site. As we have discussed, meta descriptions should really be viewed as short sales pitches for each product or service your website details.

By disregarding meta descriptions as ‘unimportant for SEO‘, you could be missing out on a huge opportunity to improve click-through rates to key areas of your site.

Do you use meta descriptions on every area of your website? If so, do you have any tips and tools people can use to make adding meta descriptions to their site less tedious? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!

8 responses to “How to Write a Killer Meta Description”

  1. I have corrected these three misplaced characters, and thanks for the feedback. I’m sorry, and surprised, that a simple typo had such a devastating impact on your reading experience. Personally, I was so engrossed in the content that I hadn’t noticed the mistake!

  2. Sarah Courbet says:

    Like you Susan I was so engrossed in the article that I didn’t see the typo. And I am obsessive about grammar and spelling. Yet more great advice from Hallam. Thank you!

  3. Tony Leary says:

    Thanks Susan, I found this searching if anyone mentioned using a physical address in the meta description for local businesses. I guess that would look kind of tacky, but perhaps mentioning a nearby location or landmark along with the local phone number would trigger some recognition and a click 😉

  4. Peter Simpson says:

    To be honest if you have loads of high quality content on your site, then there is really no need for meta description. Just check your site on Google and you will see Google uses it’s own fancy methods to pull your meta data.. To be honest it’s just pointless.. Google, Bing, Yahoo, they all say to do it… but that just keeps their secret bot from working over time next to their algorithm..

    Best wishes

    Peter

  5. The idea of not writing meta descriptions is a bit like throwing the baby away with the bath water, Peter. The meta description displays in the search engine results frequently enough to justify spending time writing a strong marketing message. Even though it doesn’t display all the time, we would recommend a good description is well worth the effort to increase click through rates.

  6. Sandybrown says:

    great work and awesome discussion.

  7. eonkart says:

    Meta description is very important factor for website, it easily describe the services that you provides in website. Thanks for sharing some useful information on Meta description.

  8. Deepshikah M says:

    Nice informaton given

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