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?
Writing meta descriptions is a necessary tool for increasing your website’s visibility and broadening your reach to consumers. This form of summary can help your page become more prominent when searched online. Not only that, but it can also help your audience know exactly what they can expect when clicking on your page. This article will help teach you how to write a meta description, as well as how to best utilize them to increase your success on search engines across the internet!
What is a meta description?
In the simplest sense, a meta description is a summary of the content that your website contains. This gives your audience the information they need to decide whether or not to click on your link. These short excerpts included in search results under the link to your website are part of a broader group of descriptive tools called meta tags. Meta tags allow Google and other search engines to understand what information your page has to offer. This determines when (and in which spot) your link pops up when a search is made. Essentially, meta descriptions relays the important information about your page to both the search engine and the consumer. You also get a better shot at being found, and clicked on!
Characteristics of a good meta description
- Include the focus keyword – By choosing a good keyword that will attract a lot of attention and utilizing it in multiple areas of your on-screen presence, you increase your SEO and prominence compared to others on the page.
- Call-to-action – Giving your prospective consumer a specific and guiding action to take in your summary can help influence them to choose your link over a competitor’s.
- 155 characters – Character limits are important when learning how to write a meta description, so make sure you stay under or around this number when creating yours.
- Match your content – Providing your audience with an accurate and descriptive preview of what your page has to offer is not only helpful in attracting the right consumers, but is also part of maintaining ethical standards in your marketing practices.
- Differentiate yourself – At the end of the day, you want to be the best option out of every page listed on a search engine for your audience. Tell them how you are better than the rest!
What are meta tags?
“Meta tag” is the umbrella term for the parts of a website page’s source code that describe what the page is about. They are essential in determining how a search engine presents your page, just like meta descriptions. There are four important types of meta tags, however not all of them are still useful in today’s digital world.
Types of meta tags:
- Title tag – The title of your page that names the exact topic being covered, which is a main player in determining how and where you appear on a search.
- Meta description attribute – A summary or description of what your page has to offer. Very important for driving traffic to your page and increasing click-through rates from an organic search.
- Meta keyword attribute – A not-so-relevant tag that consists of individual, SEO-friendly words that describe your page in the simplest terms.
- Meta robots attribute – A tag used specifically by search engines. This attribute serves an important purpose in the functionality of your page, as it tells the computer what action to take. Examples of these actions include allowing access to the page and showing the page in search results or not.
How do I best use a meta description?
Like anything SEO-related, meta descriptions have a precise and specific way that they function. Because of this, it is important to be sure you are using them in the right way. While certain actions increase how well the summary serves its purpose, others can harm its effectiveness. It is important to be aware of both the “dos” and “don’ts” to ensure maximum optimization for your website’s initial presence on a search.
What should I include?
The first and most important thing to include is a meta description on each of your pages. No matter how straightforward your topic or title link may be, a concise snippet of what your page is about can go a long way in increasing your chances of being seen. Each of your meta descriptions should include your focus keyword, too. This is usually also the topic of your page (as well as the link to your page). Mentioning it in multiple different meta tags will only increase the accuracy of placement under the right search.
While we mentioned the limit when creating a summary is 155 characters, you should also be sure to use at least 135 characters in each description. You want to make sure you provide as much important information about your page’s content as possible. Of these 135-155 characters, most should make up specific and related words to the content shown on the landing page. These words are otherwise know as “value propositions.” These words and phrases, tailored to your page and only your page, help to inform the audience of what they will get out of clicking on your link. They can also help you stand out from the crowd in search results.
What should I not include?
One major mistake to stay away from in your writing is the use of quotation marks. Quotation marks, and more specifically double quotation marks tend to break up HTML language. HTML language is important because it is what determines how code is read. It is also what enables search engines to read meta tags that help sort and rank websites during search results. Meta descriptions are created using this language, so stay away from quotation marks in your summary.
Another tip on what to avoid when writing a meta description is the use of duplicate summaries. These descriptions are designed to explain what is unique about your page, and using something similar for another topic is counterproductive. Uniqueness is not always enough to highlight your page in a sea of others, though. It is also important to grab and keep the attention of your prospective viewer as best as you can. To do so, make sure to not use the passive voice when writing. Using the active voice is much more engaging and easily understandable to the audience.
Why should I write meta descriptions?
So far, we’ve talked a lot about how to write a meta description and what they can do in terms of prominence and visibility in search engine results. However, we have not discussed exactly how this happens. These descriptions actually don’t affect SEO directly, but they still play a role in where your link pops up on a search results page. More importantly, they influence how many people click through to your landing page.
How do meta descriptions help with SEO?
As mentioned above, meta descriptions do not actually affect the algorithm used for ranking links. So how can such a tool still be so useful in optimizing your digital presence? Well, meta descriptions are actually helpful with increasing your link’s click-through rate (CTR). This is achieved by influencing the prospective consumer to believe your page is the right choice. When a website has a good enough description that convinces its viewer to click on the link, the page’s CTR increases. This increase relays information to the search engine that this page is a good result for the search that was made. Not only does a meta description directly influence people to visit your page, but it also offers a side-effect of increasing your visibility and prominence in search results!
While there are many benefits to learning how to write a meta description, there is one problem that could potentially take away from everything else. The main issue with providing your own summary is that search engines sometimes decide not to use it. Instead, they will create their own version in place of yours. While there is no concrete way of knowing whether they will decide to use yours or theirs, there are some reasons and explanations as to why this may happen. Many times, this issue turns out to be technical. This can occur through a mistake in the HTML, in the search engine itself, in the tags, and so on. Regardless, Google and other search engines will also sometimes decide that their summary is more useful than yours. After all, their ultimate goal is to direct consumers where they believe they want to go.
What is an example of a meta description?
While meta description may be a completely new term for you, chances are that you have seen one at some point will searching online. Below is a classic example of a search result on Google, including a title tag, followed by a meta description below. By writing a description for your page to be displayed in search results, you are able to give your prospective consumer a look at what you can offer them without making them visit your page.
How can I gain more experience with meta descriptions?
Learning a new skill is always a process that takes time. While it can sometimes be difficult to grasp on your own, utilizing resources and practice available to you can make the process much easier. If you would like additional help learning how to write a meta description, make sure to reach out to our digital marketing specialists here at SEO Design Chicago!
- 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?