Writing effective meta descriptions is an easy organic SEO technique to increase traffic to your site. It’s often overlooked by most bloggers (and web designers) as most folks focus on the actual page content. If you don’t set it, Google and other search engines will find 156 characters of text to use instead. Often, it’s the first few sentences of text on your post or page. That might be okay if you always kick off your posts with a catchy opener. However, many pages have their important text scattered throughout the page. So you may not like what the search engines choose to use as your meta description.
What is a meta description?
It’s a snippet of text (usually 156 or fewer characters) that search engines put below your page title in search results. To set this text, you use the <meta> HTML tag with the name attribute set to “description” and your desired description in the “content” attribute. Now that probably made no sense to you unless you’re familiar with HTML. So here’s how the format looks in code:
<meta name=”description” content=”REPLACE THIS WITH YOUR WEBPAGE’S DESCRIPTION”>
Simply add the above HTML snippet within the <head> tag on the desired page (with your description) and you’ve got yourself a meta description.
If you got a WordPress website, your page editor may have an area to add a meta description. If not, there are many SEO plug-ins (such as Yoast and All-in-One SEO) that provide this capability.
How to Write a Meta Description Tip 1: Catch the Reader’s Attention
It’s a dog-eat-dog world out when it comes to search engine results. There could be up to twenty other links that show up beside yours. So you need to stand out. Here are some ways:
- Use a shocking statement or statistic that grabs the reader’s attention. “90% of taxpayers are missing out on this rebate.“ Or, “This pesticide when used incorrectly can harm pets.”
- Make it a teaser for the content of the page or post. “These ten foods give you more energy. Especially when you combine them with…”
- Use something thought-provoking. “Skeptical about a home-based business? We were too. Here’s what changed our mind.”
It’s critical that your description stands out as you’re competing with paid ads, local search results, and other organic search results.
How to Write a Meta Description Tip 2: Complement the Page Title
Your meta description will be directly below the page title in search results. So at the very least, they need to be on the same topic. Some SEO “experts” have poorly advised others to treat these as two separate entities. But who would click on a link where the page title is about losing weight and the description is about making money selling products? Not very many people.
Ideally, you want your description to tie into your title. So let’s say your page title is “10 ways to lose weight.” Your description could be something like “Sick of dieting? So are we. Here are 10 ways to slim down and stay energized.”
How to Write a Meta Description Tip 3: Work in Keywords & Key Phrases
You should have a set of keywords and phrases in mind for each of your pages and blog posts. Try to work these into your description. But don’t go overboard. Let’s say you want to rank on the term “How to retire early.” Here’s an example of a bad description:
“Retire early. Retire rich. Maximize your 401K. Early retirement. Spend more time with your kids.”
That looks like a list of tags. No one will click on it. Here’s a better example:
“These techniques will help you retire early so can enjoy more time with your family.”
Other Meta Description tips:
It should go without saying, but make sure that you spell and grammar-check your meta description. A typo or missing word will sink your position in search results.
Also, test out different descriptions if you’re not seeing results. Remember, it takes a few weeks to see results from SEO. So give it a little time before you start changing things.
JVF Shortcut: take inspiration from the ads you see in search results. In most cases, someone paid good money to perfect their message. Don’t copy them word for word, but look at what encourages you to click. You might find phrases from multiple ads that you can combine and make your own.
A good meta description will help you with organic search. You need to give people a reason to click on your link as they are bombarded with other links and paid ads. So invest 5-10 minutes in creating a meta description that’s relevant, eye-catching, and will encourage people to click on it. And if you need help with this, or anything else related to your online presence, book a complimentary consultation with us.