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How to Write Meta Descriptions

One of the most easily disregarded aspects of online content production is the meta description.

Many website owners and managers forget that meta descriptions are frontline displays and have a significant impact on your search engine optimisation (SEO).

They are what Google shows as a description for your page on search engine results pages (SERPs). And they inform users what your web page is about so they can assess whether they’ll visit it or not.

Meta descriptions provide an excellent opportunity for you to get more traffic for your website. They provide readers and search engines with primary information about your pages.

An on-site SEO study by SemRush found that nearly 30% of websites had duplicate meta descriptions, and 25% had pages with no meta descriptions at all.

In this section of the SEO content hub, you’ll learn about how you should write or edit your meta description so that they help your SEO efforts.

What is a Meta Description?

A meta description is a type of HTML tag that is used to explain the content of a web page.

You can see the meta description of a page highlighted in the following example.

How To Write Meta Descriptions

As you can see, this description appears below the headline and URL of your page in search engine results pages (SERPs).

And you have to ensure that they follow Google’s standards if you want to stay visible and rank.

So when you create a new page or post, you have to ensure that you provide SEO-friendly meta descriptions for them. And if you have older pages and posts, it would be wise to go back to them and edit them so that they are better.

Why do Meta Descriptions Matter?

Because meta descriptions appear alongside your title and URL on SERPs, they have the potential to increase or decrease the click-through rates (CTRs) for your results.

If they are written well enough to convince or encourage a user to click your URL and go to your page, then you’re doing the right thing.

In terms of search results, your meta description has the most real estate – the most character count you can exploit to explain what your page is about and why users should click to get to it.

Meta descriptions give you the opportunity to explain your content and convince people to read it using two lines of displayed text compared to one line for the title and one line for the URL.

How To Write Meta Descriptions

So it would be significantly helpful to your SEO results if you make an effort to take advantage of the opportunity to promote your website to searchers by sending a meaningful message with your meta description.

The more traffic your pages get, the more Google will know that their contents are reliable and worth showing to more people.

And the more people see your content on SERPs, the more potential traffic, conversions and revenue you can enjoy for your eCommerce store.

How to Write Meta Descriptions

How long should meta descriptions be?

One thing to keep in mind is that your meta description should be between 140-160 characters long or else it will be too short to make an impact or too long that it will become truncated.

In the below example, you can see that the meta description has been cut or truncated after the word “your.” 

How To Write Meta Descriptions

Such a situation usually happens when the writer doesn’t provide a description that measures 160 characters or less.

On the other hand, if your meta description is too short, you’re simply missing out on giving more information about your web page.

What should you write for your meta descriptions?

Your CTR on SERPs is regarded as a potential ranking factor. So the best way to make SEO-friendly meta descriptions is to write them with the goal of generating more clicks.

Search results are similar to a traditional ad in a newspaper or magazine. 

To entice consumers to call a phone number or travel to an address to buy a product in-store, print advertising uses headlines and taglines.

When it comes to search results, your page title serves as your headline, the meta description serves as your tagline, and the URL serves as the address.

And because the meta description is like a micro-pitch for your webpage, it should be filled with active language that entices people to click on your result.

You want to write a meta description that conveys the unique selling point (USP) of your website.

When writing the copy, ask yourself why your page is superior to all of the other pages in the results.  And don’t be afraid to use your message to elicit an emotional response. 

According to a 2014 study conducted by the Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of Glasgow, human emotion can be divided into four categories:

  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Angry/Disgusted
  • Afraid/Surprised

Here’s an example of a search result with an excellent meta description for an article.

How To Write Meta Descriptions

In the above example’s case, the phrase “never buy dryer sheets again” is a strong motivational factor. It implies savings and elicits positive emotions related to relief and happiness.

Should you include keywords in your meta descriptions?

Yes, but only if they help explain your page’s content and if they grammatically fit your statement. 

Often, your keyword will match what your page is talking about. In that case you should use it in the meta description.

For example, if the keyword is shoe shop, you can quickly include a phrase like “your free delivery shoe shop next door” on your meta description.

But there are keywords that are a nightmare to use grammar-wise. If you encounter this, simply rephrase the keyword so that it doesn’t disrupt the language of your meta description.

For example, there are keywords like buy shoes UK, which are problematic grammatically. You could however rephrase it to something like “the best place you can buy shoes in the UK.”

Tips on Writing Meta Descriptions

  1. Write a meta description for each page and post you create.
  1. Aim to connect with a searcher’s emotions in two sentences under 140-160 characters.
  1. Make it meaningful and descriptive and ensure that it matches the page content.
  1. Offer a compelling reason for users to click your URL. Address an emotional pain point for your readers and position your page as a potential solution.
  1. Make your message clear – people don’t care for vague descriptions and will go for other results.
  1. Add a clear call to action that entices people to click your URL.
  1. Ensure, you don’t have duplicate meta descriptions. While Google won’t penalise you for it, you can’t expect one key page to rank higher than another with the same meta description.
  1. Double-check how it looks with a SERP preview generator tool.

Tools for Checking Your Meta Descriptions

The tools listed below can help you test your meta descriptions as you write and edit them.

Semrush Site Audit

This tool analyses the health of your website. It lists issues that makes it easy for you to pinpoint where your website is struggling, including pages with missing and duplicate meta descriptions.

How To Write Meta Descriptions

Semrush On-Page SEO Checker

This tool checks if you have a keyword in your title and meta tag. And it suggests the right one if you don’t have it.

Don’t disregard your meta descriptions.

Your meta descriptions are frontline pitches on SERPs. And they can draw the line between a searcher clicking or not clicking your URL to go to your page.

So you have to ensure that all your posts and pages have excellent-standard, unique meta descriptions.

Simple as they may be, they contribute significantly to your overall SEO efforts.

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