You’re not new to SEO, so you probably already know that meta descriptions are crucial for your ranking. With a well-written meta description, you can get more people to click on your link, which translates into a higher click-through rate.
But how exactly do you write a meta description that’s optimized for improving your ranking? Here are six best practices to help you out:
1. Maintain the Right Character Length
The search results page will display a limited number of characters in your description. This means you need to keep your meta description short, preferably within 160 characters. The goal is to avoid mid-sentence breaks, which will ruin your chances of convincing searchers to click on your link.
Take a look at the image below to see how awkward the mid-sentence breaks look in the two search results. To avoid this, make sure your statements are complete, so that people get a good idea what your page is about, and then decide to click.
2. Include Your Focus Keyword
If you’re familiar with keyword optimization, you probably already have a focus keyword lined up for each page. And you’ll be using those keywords to optimize the content of your webpages. You should also make sure to include your focus keyword in each meta description. Ideally, you should find a keyword with high search volume and low competition.
If Google detects a matching search query, it will bring up your page in the search results. Google will even highlight the matching text in your meta description to make it more noticeable. As you can see in the screenshot below, the top three results for, “construction cleaning Sacramento,” all have the focus keyword in their meta descriptions.
Although it’s important to use a focus keyword in your meta description, avoid forcing it in, or overusing it. Use it in a relevant sentence, in a way that makes sense. A meta description with overstuffed keywords can appear unreliable and unappealing to searchers. Which means they will be less likely to click on your link.
3. Make it Relevant
A meta description should describe what the page is about. It shouldn’t be about your business, unless it’s a description for your “About Us” or “Home” page. If the page is for a blog post about how to make more sales, the meta description should describe what people can learn from the post, and then invite them to read. Or if it’s a service page, it should describe the service you’re promoting on that particular page.
This is important because the meta description should help searchers, not mislead them. Otherwise, they could immediately leave the page after finding out that it’s not what they were expecting. And that means you’ll have a high bounce rate, which can negatively affect your ranking. There’s no point gaining a lot of traffic if a majority of those visits end up with a bounce.
The example below is a description for a blog post about five editorial calendars to help content creators. This clearly explains what the content is all about, and informs searchers what to expect. If people decide to click on the link, they know that they’re going to land on a page containing a list of five editorial calendars.
4. Make it Actionable and Valuable
A meta description is like an invitation to your webpage. You shouldn’t just use a vague description of the page’s content, or automatically let Google display the first few lines of your blog post.
Write your meta description in the active voice, and include a value proposition to get people to checkout the page. In other words, the description should make people want to click on the link.
In the following example, the website manages to write a short description that is actionable, with a clear value proposition. The description tells people to take an action, which in this case is to “check out” the article. It mentions what the page is about, which is a “round-up of free attractions.” And then it gives a value proposition, which is the ability to see classic landmarks in New York City on a budget.
5. Don’t Forget a CTA
After you’ve written an actionable and compelling meta description, you need to tell people what to do next. This is where the call-to-action comes into the picture. You make an inviting offer with your value proposition (mentioned earlier), and then you tell them to take a certain action with your CTA.
Think about your meta description as sales copy, where the product you’re selling is the content of the page. Ideally, you’ll be using something like, “Learn more…” if you’re promoting a product page or, “Find out how to get your free 30-day trial,” if you’re promoting a page with a free trial offer. Similarly, a meta description for a blog post can have a CTA inviting people to, “Learn how to…”
The following screenshot showcases a meta description from ContentDJ. In addition to describing what the tool is about, the description ends with a CTA inviting people to try the tool for free.
6. Write a Unique Description
Each webpage should have a unique meta description, (and title). Although you may not get a Google penalty for duplicating your meta content, you could face a disadvantage in your ranking. According to MIND, this is because your duplicate meta titles and descriptions will be competing against each other in addition to competing with other webpages.
Make sure the meta description for each page clearly details what the page contains, instead of copy-pasting a general description for all pages. Take the time to write a unique, and compelling meta description to entice searchers for each page. For local SEO, try building a separate landing page for each city you’re targeting, and then write a unique meta description for each city page.
In the following screenshot, you can see the results of two different pages for one website. The homepage meta description is more descriptive, and talks about some of the services offered, and the trucks used. The “Rates” page has a description highlighting the lowest rate, which is relevant for the page, and then follows up with a CTA.
Bonus: Make Use of Rich Snippets
Rich snippets can increase the appeal of your webpage on the search results page, improving your chances of getting more clicks. If it’s a product page, you can include things like star ratings, price, number of reviews, stock status, etc. Some websites even include technical specs as shown in the following image.
And if you compare this result with other results on the page, you’ll see that it stands out, and looks far more enticing than the ones without rich snippets. So there’s a good chance people are going to choose this link over the others, as it seems relevant, and includes lots of useful information.
These are some of the best practices for writing a compelling meta description to improve your search ranking. Do you have any questions, or any ideas to share? Let me know in the comments below. And if you need professional guidance for optimizing your search ranking, feel free to get in touch with me.