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How to Write Great Meta Descriptions

Have you ever read the back cover of a book and enjoyed it so much you had to purchase it? Maybe you saw a preview of a news article and it drew you into reading the whole thing. Or lastly, you read a synopsis of a movie and immediately went to go purchase the tickets. If any of these sounds like you, then you know the importance of a good teaser to reel you in. That is where a meta description comes in handy. But what exactly is that and how do you write a meta description you may be asking?

A meta description is pretty much the trailer for web pages. But crafting a great meta description is an art form and one of the keys to your SEO strategy. We will inform you what exactly a meta description is and how to write a meta description. Also, we will touch base on the best practices you should consider when drafting them and we will showcase a few real-world examples.

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What is a Meta Description?

Before knowing how to write a meta description, you should know what is a meta description. Like we previously alluded to, a meta description is a little snippet of information that appears underneath a web page’s title on search results pages. The meta description is usually a few sentences long and gives a preview of what the web page is about. You have definitely scanned through a few when browsing the results on search engines. Users read through the meta description because they want to see if the webpage has the information they are looking for. If not, the user will certainly not click on the link to the web page. You probably have done so yourself because you did not want to waste your time. Well, your customers behave the very same.

If you are not familiar with HTML, what is a meta description can be a little more difficult to understand. A meta description is a separate HTML tag within your website’s code. Search engines will use this tag and the content provided when displacing your web page in search results. See below for an example of the HTML code and check out your own web pages to see if they have one included.

<meta name="description" content="This guide covers how to write a meta description  and why it is so important to your website."/>

Hopefully, that technical jargon did not confuse you on what is a meta description. The main point is to know that a meta description summarizes a web page’s content. Most of the time, search engines will show the description if it matches keywords or phrases within the search query.

Why is a Meta Description Important for SEO?

Search engines have said that they do not use the meta description in search results rankings. However, meta descriptions do have an indirect impact on your website’s online visibility. If users are reading your meta description and not clicking on your link, your click-through rate will be poor. And click-through rate is a consideration of search engines when presenting results. Therefore, knowing how to write a meta description is vital in ensuring your web pages catch the eyes of users.

As a disclaimer, search engines do not always display your meta description. Regardless, the likelihood it will appear is an opportunity you should not pass up. Besides, meta descriptions are not that difficult to compose or take much time. You now know what is a meta description and next, we will show you how to write a meta description.

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Guidelines on How to Write a Meta Description

Let us get into the best practices for writing a meta description. Throughout these suggestions, consider the different web pages that make up your website. Think about what is most important to convey to users about each page. Plus, many of these guidelines can also be helpful for your general SEO strategy, not just your meta descriptions.

Meta Description Length

The first consideration in writing great meta descriptions is the meta description length. You do not want to have it too long because users will be deterred from fully reading it. At the same time, a description that is too short may lead to users having far too vague of an idea of what your web page is about. Remember that the meta description is a preview of your web page. You do not want to overload the user but you do want to hook them into clicking on the link.

Generally, the ideal meta description length is between 120 and 156 characters. Many of the most successful meta descriptions use 155 characters as the magic number. However, do not force yours to be exactly that number. The right meta description length varies on what is appropriate to get the right message across.

The tricky thing with search engines like Google is that you do not have full control of what is displaced underneath your web page’s title on search results pages. Occasionally, search engines will take a few sentences from your page’s content instead. It is safest to keep your meta descriptions under 156 characters rather than over because Google may cut it short.

Content to Include in a Meta Description

Knowing what content to include is essential in how to write a meta description. Your meta description should be presented in the active voice and be actionable. Think of the meta description as an invitation that is informing your guests of what will be there and what they should do next. Including a call-to-action will incite the users to take action and click on your web page’s link. Later on, we will provide a few actionable meta description examples.

Browsing search engine results pages, you may notice that there is not much of an opportunity for your web page to stand out from the rest. Having a generic or dull meta description will not encourage users to click on it. Be creative and unique with your meta descriptions. They can be thought of as a mini sales pitch to users. Nonetheless, do not go so crazy as to hamper your chances.

Above all else, you want to ensure your meta description matches the content on the webpage. Nothing will have the user hitting the back button faster than misleading the user to click and them not finding what they needed. And that will certainly have an impact on your search ranking.

Use Focus Keywords and Phrases

No guide to search engine optimization would be complete without emphasizing the value of keywords and phrases, especially when it comes to how to write a meta description. If certain words within your meta description match the search keywords, Google and other search engines will more likely utilize them. In fact, Google will bold exact or similar keywords within your meta description.

As you draft up the copy for your web pages, be sure to think about the main focus for each of the pages. Then think of the keywords and phrases you want to be associated with the web pages. You can even take it one step further and utilize an online keyword planner to retrieve the most popular keywords.

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Meta Description Examples

At this point, you should have a better grasp of how to write a meta description. But we are sure that a meta description example or two could help. The ones we are about to present are only a few compared to the millions out there. Take a minute to browse your favorite brands’ or competitors’ meta descriptions for inspiration. Looking for more meta description examples, there many online sources that evaluate meta descriptions.

Lonely Planet, a popular online travel guide, effectively utilizes active voice and call-to-actions within its main meta description. “Love travel? Plan and book your perfect trip with expert advice, travel tips, destination information and inspiration from Lonely Planet.”

Another great meta description example is Nike. This famous shoe brand knows how to stand out from the rest and leaves no ambiguity as to who they are. “Nike delivers innovative products, experiences and services to inspire athletes.”

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Creating Your Own Meta Descriptions

A meta description is one small piece of your entire website and SEO strategy. Even so, it can impact your online visibility and how likely a user will click onto your pages. But you now have the knowledge on how to write a meta description to start attracting new customers. As a first step, familiarize yourself with your current web pages’ HTML code and determine how effective your meta descriptions are right now. If this was all new to you, you may need to start from scratch.

Then begin drafting your meta description copy. Keep in mind the recommendations we made earlier. Having only a limited amount of characters to use can be constraining, but see it as an opportunity to produce concise content. On top of all that, remember the description should match the content on the web page. As a starting point, take some of the best sentences from your content and adapt them to a meta description. SEO Design Chicago has expertise in on-page SEO and meta tags to help increase your search engine ranking.

FAQs:

  • Why use a meta description?
  • How long should a meta description be?
  • What should be included in a meta description?
  • What are examples of a meta description?
  • Where to find a meta description?

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