The Mega Importance of Meta Descriptions
Weighing in at a mere 155 characters, meta descriptions might not seem like a heavyweight contender in the content writing battle. It’s easy to gloss over them quickly. They do have their place in the ring, however, and need some muscle to do their job.
But what exactly is a meta description and why should you care? We’re here to give you those answers and help you create snippets that are sharp, succinct and effective in your content marketing strategy.
What Is a Meta Description?
A meta description is that tiny snippet below your article’s title in a Google search (also known as an HTML tag). While SEO has a lot to do with the way your actual articles are ranked, your meta description is an extra edge to convince readers to follow through. These snippets should accurately describe your article and how it can help your readers, thus boosting your click-through rate. A well-written meta description, in hand with a catchy title, is the secret to getting Google users to read your post.
How Long Is a Meta Description?
Although there’s been a few changes in the character length of a meta description, it is recommended to stay between 150 and 160 characters. This is an optimal length because it gives you enough room to describe the article while not becoming so large that Google’s algorithms cut it off. Keep in mind that spaces are included in this character count.
Why Are Meta Descriptions Important?
Although adding a couple of sentences to your article may seem unnecessary, meta descriptions serve a very specific purpose: they persuade readers to click on your post.
For any business or influencer with a website, click-throughs are often hard to get. This is mainly because Google users spend as much time looking at titles as flies do when they flit from object to object. In other words, potential readers usually judge your article in a couple of seconds or less. If they’re not impressed, then you really don’t have a chance.
What Impresses Readers?
Readers have many motives that guide the way they click on articles, such as the following:
- Wanting information
- Looking to be entertained
- Needing a specific service
- Intrigued by information that seems helpful
These are some of the most common reasons why people search the internet. Why? It’s simple: People are more often than not looking for something specific.
So how do they find information that addresses their specific needs? How do you do it? We look at the title. If the title doesn’t match our needs, we’ll move on or try a different search.
Why Should You Add a Meta Description?
Let’s say you can’t fit everything into the title, or you want to drive home the fact that your article is about something important. That’s where a meta description comes in handy. A strong, succinct meta description is another way to persuade readers to click on your specific article. Often, this added tidbit is more convincing than a 50-character title can be on its own.
Although meta descriptions don’t necessarily affect your search ranking, they are an important element of getting the reader’s attention and convincing them to follow through.
When Should You Add a Meta Description?
You may think adding a powerful meta snippet to every page is necessary. According to SEJ, not all pages actually need one. For many websites, there are thousands of web pages that just can’t be given all that time and effort to write great meta descriptions.
Google normally creates its own meta description when one isn’t provided, and this can sometimes be the smarter way to go. This is because the search engine picks out keywords (based on a user’s search) from the first paragraph of your content and creates its own description. In many cases, this may be slightly more effective than your static description, because it is directed towards the user’s needs.
However, when or when shouldn’t you include a meta description? We offer two pieces of advice: prioritize the most important articles on your website and write good meta descriptions when you can.
Prioritize the Most Important Articles
Some posts are more important than others when it comes to SEO. Focus your time and effort on maintaining articles that rank for lots of keywords and bring traffic. You should definitely include strong meta descriptions for the articles that are getting the attention of readers, and you should also incorporate other articles that have potential to bring traffic. Once again, according to SEJ, your homepage, product pages, category pages and ranking content should all have meta descriptions.
Write Good Meta Descriptions When You Can
It’s a good rule of thumb to include a great meta description with most of the posts you create, especially if you don’t have to worry about thousands of articles (and if you do worry about lots of web pages, let us do most of the work for you). That comes to our next point: Creating amazing meta descriptions.
How Do You Write a Meta Description?
Does the 150-character length of a meta description intimidate you? To be honest, they should be intimidating, because these snippets need to be powerful writing, despite the small size. Fluffy meta descriptions do not give your readers anything real to hold on to, and their interest might dissipate pretty quickly.
Luckily, it’s not too hard to write a meta description that gets to the point and convincing to readers. Here are a few tips that, if followed closely, can bring big results.
Persuade the Reader to Click Through
Just because a website earns high search rankings doesn’t automatically mean that consumers will click through to the website. In just a few words, a good meta description compels readers to visit the website, in much the same way that a two-minute movie trailer entices people to go see a certain film.
Take Gone Girl for instance. I read the book and loved the first ¾ of it, but I HATED the ending. I had no desire to go watch the movie—until I saw the trailer. Smart dialogue? Check. Amazing actors? Check. It even hinted that perhaps the ending was different than the book. So I shelled out money for a babysitter and went to see the movie. Still. HATED. The ending.
So how do you use these tactics in writing?
Highlight the Most Important Features
Nonetheless, I had to give credit to the marketing team for creating a condensed version of the film that intrigued me enough to go watch the feature in its entirety. There were too many things that I was interested in seeing.
By highlighting the most important features of a blog or webpage, meta descriptions do the same thing. Pick out what people will find if they read your article. These will often be about the keywords you are targeting, so don’t forget to include those.
If your content offers knowledge, skills or insight on a subject, be sure to include this within the meta description. Help readers know that your article can benefit them in some way.
Cut Any Fluff
With such a tight character limit, you really can’t afford to have fluff. When we talk about fluff, we mean all the extra words, frilly phrases and unnecessary verbs, adjectives and anything else that takes away from the main subject. Cutting the fluff means getting to the core of the writing, which often improves the quality of it.
As you write great meta descriptions, consider these tips to eliminate fluff:
- Avoid passive voice
- Cut any repetitive phrases or words
- Get rid of jargon
If you find yourself at a loss for ANY words, consider what makes your article different or special. Think up 1-2 sentences that really describe these unique factors.
Additional Meta Description Writing Tips
Because each piece of content is distinctive, meta descriptions should be pretty unique as well. However, these are a few tips you should use in each description to maximize efficiency:
- Differentiate from competitors. Sell the benefits of visiting the website.
- Incorporate one or two keywords into copy. Google bolds keywords that match search queries, making the resulting meta descriptions more relevant to readers.
- Use plain text. Avoid using alphanumeric characters such as hyphens, quotation marks, etc. as search engines often identify these things as HTML code instead of text and don’t display them properly.
After writing a meta description for an article, do a quick scan through to see if you’ve accomplished each of these. That along with your quality writing is a pretty good measure of how effective your description will be.
Can I Add Meta Descriptions To Old Content?
Adding a meta description to an older piece of content or webpage is simple! Depending on your website, you can add it with the help of a plugin or putting in the HTML data yourself. If you work with WordPress, their SEO plugins can make the process of adding meta descriptions easy, even for content you’ve already published.
Should I Update Meta Descriptions on My Website?
Although we do suggest you go and add meta descriptions to important web pages such as your homepage and category pages, it’s also important that you maintain and update your meta descriptions consistently. Every time you go back to optimize an article for SEO or marketing purposes, always update the snippet as well.
Optimizing old content is essential in any content marketing plan. Sometimes, you may try to target a different keyword that is ranking better than the ones you originally focused on. That’s okay, in fact, that’s a normal part of optimizing old content. As you go back and make necessary tweaks, give a few minutes to the meta description as well and check to see if it focuses on the new keywords.
Meta Descriptions Are Worth It!
A well-written meta description increases the click-through rate for the most important pages on a website. Next time you write one, take the time to craft it carefully and make it a knockout!
If you don’t have the time to do it yourself, we understand. Check out our meta description writing services, we’ve got you covered. Our vetted writers can create unique descriptions that describe the meat of your content and include keywords that users might search for.
Whether you write them yourself or let us take care of it, good meta descriptions are definitely mega-important.