January 31, 2017
Meta content: it’s one of the most overlooked aspects of online content, but it remains one of the most important.
HTML tags designed to help search engines decipher a page’s content, meta descriptions are 160-character snippets of text that serve dozens of SEO purposes, from informing readers to helping pages rank better for various search queries.
If you’ve ever wondered why meta descriptions matter, or why SEO page descriptions help content rank better, read on to learn more.
Search Engines and SEO Page Descriptions
While meta descriptions are important for readers, they’re also critical for search engines. When a search engine crawls content, it searches the meta description for keywords that clue it into the fact that the content in the meta description is similar to the content on the page.
This, in turn, helps search engines pair pages with queries and provide the best possible value to search engine users.
What’s more, meta descriptions are displayed on search engine results pages (SERPs), where they help readers decipher the intent of a page before they click on it.
While this doesn’t directly impact technical SEO, pages that get more clicks get more shares, and pages with more shares, likes, and engagement rank better, so, after a fashion, well-written meta descriptions can indeed help a page rank more prominently in the SERPs.
4 Things to Know About Meta Descriptions and SEO
Since the relationship between meta content and SEO is so ill-understood, here are four essential facts everyone should know:
- The meta description alone doesn’t produce higher rank.
- Google’s search algorithm takes Google user behavior into account (clicks, shares, etc.) when it ranks pages.
- Click-through rate is one of the most important ranking factors in the world of SEO.
- Meta descriptions are some of the most powerful tools for increasing a page’s click-through rate from the SERPs.
With those four things in mind, let’s talk about how to write quality meta descriptions of your own.
How to Write Quality Meta Content That Earns Clicks: 10 Tips
Because the role meta descriptions play in page rank has long been debated and cast aside, people neglect the meta description and assume that it can’t do anything for them in the way of online content.
Fortunately, this assumption couldn’t be more off-base.
While it’s true that the existence of a meta description on its own might not influence page rank, optimized meta descriptions do, and it’s essential for marketers everywhere, in all industries, to learn how to write a good one. Here are ten powerful tips to get you started:
1. Be as descriptive as possible in your meta content
Your meta content is the first thing readers consult to get a feel for your page. With this in mind, it’s clear that being as descriptive as possible is essential. Instead of simply rehashing the subject of your page, add an interesting statistic, insert action works, or present a problem that you know the reader is trying to solve.
Ideal for grabbing a reader’s attention right from the search page, descriptive meta content is one thing that seriously increase your click-through rates.
2. Give the reader a reason to click
Meta descriptions are no place to be dull, dry, and uninspired. If you want users to click, you have to give them a reason to do it, which means being as persuasive as possible. Don’t be afraid to push your reader a bit with a compelling CTA, a question, or a brick of content that encourages your reader to respond.
While a meta description isn’t the place for sales content, it is a place to hone your persuasion skills until they shine.
3. Pique your reader’s sense of curiosity
A good meta description should offer just enough information to make your reader curious without fully satiating the appetite. When a reader gets to the end of your meta description, he or she should be so curious about what lies in the page as a whole that they can’t help but click.
Be careful to avoid going so far as to “give the page away.” Instead, keep it lightly informative, thought-provoking, and unique.
4. Use power words in your meta content
In many ways, writing an excellent meta description is a lot like writing a great headline. Power words, action words, and compelling language will go a long way toward inspiring your readers to click, and may even encourage your readers to share your content, since the compelling meta description will get others to click, as well.
5. Mind your meta content’s length
One of the biggest mistakes you can make with meta content is to allow it to run too long. After 160 characters, Google truncates a meta description. In addition to the fact that a cut-off description does no good for your followers, it also looks poor on the SERP page and can inspire readers to find something that’s more visually appealing.
With this in mind, keep your meta descriptions under 160 characters, including spaces. While this may force you to get more creative, it will also help you look better and more professional in the SERPs.
6. Provide an accurate representation of page content
If there’s anything you don’t want to do with meta content, it’s provide an inaccurate depiction of your page’s content. If readers feel deceived, they’re going to leave the page in a hurry, even if they clicked-through to get there.
A better long-term strategy is simply to put in the extra time and effort to create a highly accurate and unique meta description. In addition to rewarding your readers once they get to your page, this also helps brand you as an honest company.
7. Keep it relevant for your readers
A good meta description must be pertinent to the content on the page. In a way, this goes hand-in-hand with providing an accurate representation. While it’s all well and good to craft a fantastical (and irrelevant) meta description, this doesn’t benefit your brand or your readers in the long run.
With that in mind, find a way to keep it interesting while also maintaining its relevance.
8. Include relevant keywords in your meta description
While keywords aren’t the driving factor of search any longer, they are critical for a good meta description, and keeping them relevant and unique is key. With this in mind, add keywords naturally throughout your meta description – preferably toward the beginning of the content.
9. Keep all of your meta content unique
According to Google’s Matt Cutts, duplicate meta descriptions are one of the cardinal sins of SEO. Instead of copying the meta content throughout your site, be sure that you’re crafting unique descriptions for each post you write. While this may seem unnecessary, it can go a long way toward improving the overall SEO of your site and making your descriptions more useful and relevant for your readers.
10. Keep your brand voice intact
For a consistent brand presence, a distinct voice in your meta descriptions is essential. While many companies overlook this, it’s one of the most important aspects of a good meta description.
While it’s true that things like keywords, relevance, and length all matter, so, too, does keeping your brand’s voice intact throughout all of your meta content.
Good Meta Content is Anything but Dead
While meta content has been overlooked by marketers from near and far, it’s one of the most essential factors in great online content.
In addition to inspiring readers to click on your page from the SERPs, good meta content also helps your company maintain a consistent presence, allows you to brand yourselves as being creative and hyper-relevant, and helps you rank more prominently in the SERPs.
While it’s true that meta content on its own won’t shoot you to the first position in Google, unique, informative, well-crafted meta descriptions can increase your click-through rate, which in turn can improve your rankings and help you create a consistent and reliable online presence that serves both your brand and your readers well.
While unique meta descriptions take some time and effort to learn to write, they’re well worth it, and brands that master them will enjoy higher click-through rates and more efficient content.
Julia McCoy is a serial content marketer, entrepreneur, and bestselling author. She founded a multi-million dollar content agency, Express Writers, with nothing more than $75 at 19 years old. Today, her team has nearly 100 expert content creators on staff, and serves thousands of clients around the world. She's earned her way to the top 30 worldwide content marketers, and has a passion for sharing what she knows in her books and in her online course, The Content Strategy & Marketing Course. Julia also hosts The Write Podcast on iTunes.