Meta descriptions are essentially your way of showcasing what you want people to see – the high level of your page in search results. They matter because click-through rate matters, and if you write them well and follow a few simple principles you can increase your site traffic.
Step One: Start with an action verb
You can create a sense of movement and inspire people to read with just this one copywriting trick. When you start with an action verb like “Discover,’ “learn,’ or “become” you get the person moving along the sentence and reducing friction.
Step Two: Give a clear picture of what the content will be
If you describe with clarity what a searcher will get if they click through to your content – if you really outline in a succinct way what the benefit to them will be for clicking, your click through rate will go up significantly. This is why the meta description is just about being persuasive, not stuffing as many keywords in as possible. Though it may make sense to use some as I suggest in another point below.
Step Three: Make sure your meta description is less than 155 Characters
You can go on and on in your content and it’s a value add, but because meta descriptions have a cut off around 155 characters, if you do this in a meta description you’re liable to have your snippet to cut off with a … (ellipsis). Not the worst thing in the world, except that we want to be intentional about our start, middle, and end of the meta description – so a longer meta description is out.
Step Four: Include the main keyword again in the meta description
Wait – you said that it’s not about keyword stuffing – and doing so would have a little benefit? Yes, but because Google will bold the keyword that was searched in the meta if you can do it tastefully and naturally – the bolding will draw more attention to your meta description than others. It’s an advantage that I wouldn’t shoot for if including the keyword makes the meta description less readable or coherent, but I would shoot for if you can do it without hampering your other elements of a perfect meta description.
Step Five: Lastly, end your meta description with a call to action.
“Get Started,” “Learn More,” or “Read more now” can all create more of a nudge to move a searcher to read your content. If you tailor this to the specific situation you’re writing your meta description for, it will be most effective. Don’t sit on one generic ’get started’ call to action for every meta description if the situation calls for something a bit more specific to the page or article you’re writing it for.
Writing meta descriptions is an art – but not one without clear and effective principals that most people should be able to carry out. If you’re working with a team – don’t forget to share this article with them and give them some easy to follow guidelines about how to do this right. It’s simple – but really important. Much like creating an actionable title tag or your link building campaign, effective meta descriptions that improve click through rate can have a massive impact on your site’s overall traffic over time. It pays to start working in this process to every post and page you publish.
Tim Brown does marketing for general contractors and is obsessed with getting results for them in the form of new business and increased revenue. Drive traffic and conversion. You can tweet him at @timbdesignmpls