How to Write the Perfect Meta Descriptions to Drive Users to Your Website
We’re all aware of the expression ‘first impressions mean everything,’ a theory that has been proven time and time again. Whether you’re selling a property, a piece of art or even yourself during an interview, first impressions count – and the same goes for your website.
When it comes to your website, first impressions are crucial before people even visit it. How so? It’s because – assuming they find your website on a search engine – the first impression a user gets comes from your meta description.
So, to put it simply, you need to know how to perfect your meta tags and master SEO copywriting to drive your target users to your website.
Compelling, engaging, relevant, descriptive and concise; keep those in mind when writing your meta descriptions, and you’ll already beat half of your competitors (many of whom don’t even bother creating custom meta descriptions).
To really learn how to master the art of writing meta descriptions that not only capture attention but also entice click-throughs, we should at least briefly explain what a meta description is.
What Is a Meta Description?
A meta description is a snippet of information of up to 320 characters that summarises a webpage’s content. They can be crafted manually or created automatically (which we don’t recommend for reasons you’ll find out soon enough).
For now, let’s skip the sponsored results section and focus on the organic results (the links to websites that earn a high ranking through quality content rather than by paying for a top position on the search engine results pages, or SERPS).
Google lists ten website listings per SERP.
On each of those listings, you’ll see a header above a URL. Underneath that URL, you’ll find the meta description.
If you find any of the following information confusing, you might want to learn more about the benefits of SEO services and how they can make everything straightforward for you.
Why Do I Need to Customise My Meta Descriptions?
If you don’t write your own meta descriptions, the search engines will automatically generate them for you. So, you don’t need to customise your meta description to make it to the first page on Google, but you should anyway.
Writing your own meta description means you get to decide what a user sees on your search listing. If you don’t, Google might not provide users with the information you’d like them to view. Provided you perfect the art of writing custom meta descriptions, you will boost your chances of increasing click-throughs.
To prove our point, which one of these listings would you be more likely to click on if you were trying to find out how to make a website?
“How To Make An Attractive Website. Make your business shine online by taking advantage of our tips.”
“Your domain name is your identity on the web; you want to make sure … a name, share it with close friends to make sure it sounds appealing …”
How to Write a Compelling Meta Description
Here are some pointers that you can use to perfect your meta descriptions and consequently entice users to click on your listings on the SERPs.
Tip number 1: Stop assuming character counts are going to make much difference
Just because you can type a meta description using up to 320 characters doesn’t mean you need to. Longer snippets aren’t necessarily going to attract more click-throughs. Short snippets can be equally if not more enticing if they give the user the information what they want.
Here’s an example of a meta description that is too long. Notice the sentence has been cut off.
Specifically, even if your meta description is short in length but tells the user they’re going to find what they want by clicking on the result, you’ve written a strong meta description.
Also, remember that mobile-first indexing has now arrived, so short meta descriptions definitely aren’t always going to deter click-throughs.
When you write a meta description, remember it’s to attract a human, not prove to an algorithm that your site boasts authority.
Conversely, you don’t need to force yourself to keep your meta descriptions within the maximum allowed number of characters.
Sometimes, provided the content in your meta description is enticing, it can end with an ellipsis (…) and still encourage users to click on your listing.
In conclusion, rather than focus solely on minimising or maximising your meta description character count, concentrate on the content your meta description contains.
Tip number 2: Make your meta descriptions interesting and unique
It might sound obvious, but it’s a point worth stressing:
Make sure your meta descriptions are not boring.
Let’s look at an example meta description from a result by Yoast, which is a WordPress SEO plugin developer. Here’s the meta description:
“Yoast Plugins for WordPress: Do you want more traffic to your site? The Yoast SEO Plugins add specific functionality to your website that will help you to improve your position in the organic search results. We offer several plugins that focus ondifferent aspects of SEO. Start outranking your competition today!”
Don’t you think that’s highly compelling?
It uses the active voice that persuades the reader it genuinely has something to offer. You also gain an idea of what to expect from the webpage without having to read any unnecessary details, and there’s no confusing language (provided you know something about SEO and were searching for something to boost your efforts).
It’s a meta description that is specific, doesn’t contain ‘fluffy’ language and makes you believe you have something to gain by clicking the link.
Most importantly, if you follow the link the description refers to, you’ll find the information highly relevant.
Now let’s look at a ‘boring’ meta description, and we won’t call anybody out for this:
“We have a large variety of men’s shoes at competitive prices.”
We’re not saying this is a lousy meta description because of its short length (refer to Tip number 1), but it does nothing to tell the user why they should click on its website rather than someone else’s.
It may concisely explain what you’ll find on the page, but so what? Why is that particular website’s shoes better than somebody else’s? It tells us we’ll find men’s shoes, but which types? And wouldn’t all vendors claim to offer competitive prices?
The bottom line is: make your meta descriptions unique, interesting and descriptive, and make sure they give people a glimpse into the information they’re actually going to find on the webpage.
Tip number 3: Don’t forget to use keywords in your meta descriptions
Your meta description should most certainly contain the right keywords that:
Are relevant to your webpage’s content
Your target customers are searching for
If your customers are searching for a keyword that your custom meta description doesn’t contain, Google will pull the first sentence from your webpage that does include the keyword and use that to automatically generate a meta description, which it will display instead of your custom one.
That completely defeats the object of writing a custom meta description.
You’ll need to do your homework on keyword research and analysis to determine which keywords are most appropriate for your meta descriptions, but that’s subject matter that we don’t have time to discuss in this article (click the link above for our take on keyword research).
Tip number 4: Don’t solely rely on your words
What we’re about to talk about is quite technical, so you might want to hire an SEO company to help you out with this.
Nevertheless, if you follow our advice, you will boost your chances of earning a high position on the SERPs.
Your SERP listing isn’t limited to just words. The website listings that reach the first page can accompany their words with pictures, links to sections of a particular page and even links to other relevant pages.
Take a look at how you can create an extremely enticing meta description that contains links and more than just a concise summary by opening an incognito Google page (Ctrl + Shift + N) and searching using the phrase “which bed should I buy Quora.”
You’ll see that, underneath the meta description, there are links to similar questions along with the date they were published – all included in the same listing.
Some listings can also contain pictures, short video clips and more, and all these features help generate click-throughs.
Learning how to create these kinds of listings is all about implemented structured data, which, admittedly, is a challenging topic to get your head around. An expert in SEO analysis can help do this for you, so don’t think you have to do it alone.
Unfortunately, only listings on the first page can take advantage of these kinds of features. However, you need to incorporate them into your structured data before reaching the first page to have a chance of actually getting there.
A specialist in Google Ads, and with a wide range of SEO skills and experience, Michael has a particular interest in Local SEO strategies for small to medium sized businesses. When Michael is not working hard increasing conversions for clients Paid Advertising campaigns he enjoys traveling, dining out and watching Formula 1 and football.