You have only a few seconds to grab my attention. If you haven’t by now, I’m already scrolling away from you, clicking on someone else’s idea, and deciding to buy their stuff, whatever it is.
Unfortunately, the competition on the internet is fierce, and you have to fight to attract attention.
When people search for information online, their attention first goes to the title and then straight to the meta description to help them decide whether they will click on your site or not. The meta snuggles up just beneath the title, and if it’s clear, catchy, and relevant, they might click there.
The meta description doesn’t play a huge role in whether your page ranks first in a search engine, but it does decide if someone clicks on it once they see it.
So, you can’t ignore the importance of meta descriptions! They help you connect with people, share ideas, build a brand, or sell your product. Those 150 to 160 keystrokes need to work some magic.
A badly written meta description will put readers off, preventing them from ever having the chance to see what other wonders you may be sharing on your website itself.
But how do you write a good meta description and hook potential customers from the first click? It all starts with knowing who your readers are and what they want.
Know Your Audience
Meta descriptions need to speak to the reader’s current needs. You can do this by using keywords.
Think about what words the reader might use when doing an internet search.
What might their problem be?
What product do they need, or what information do they need to know?
What is causing them some level of difficulty or pain—the customer pain point—that they want to sort out with this search?
Now, what words would they use in the search? If you are stuck, there are loads of market research sites you can play with to dig a bit deeper into the mind of your buyer to see what they are searching for.
Using keywords that speak directly to what the reader needs will make your meta description attention-grabbing and relevant. In turn, readers can cut through the internet ‘noise’ and find a solution on your website, helping drive traffic to your site.
Include a Call to Action When Writing Meta Descriptions
Once you have their attention, what should they do next?
This is where the call to action comes in. Include some action words—click here, jump on board, use our tips—to prompt the reader to do more than just read the meta description.
Get them to do something that will take them to your website. Once they are on your website, you can use great written content to get them to buy your product or use your services.
Every Word Counts, so Make Them Rich and Juicy
If you want to level up your meta description, add in rich, sensory words as well. Think of enticing adjectives or words that speak directly to an emotion or a sensory reward.
Take this burger ad meta description as an example:
Want tender, juicy meat on a crisp, buttered bun? Order our delicious Wagyu burgers! Fast delivery - fresh, hot, tasty - unforgettable flavors - 5-star reviews.
Can you feel yourself salivating already? It speaks to your taste buds, promises great service, and asks you to order now. All the elements of a great meta description.
Using customer ratings and appealing numbers in your meta description can also enrich the appeal value. It helps to view your meta as a standalone advert. If the reader sees nothing else, then the meta alone must draw them in.
Writing Meta Descriptions Step by Step
You’ve researched your audience and come up with a call to action, but you still have to write the description. This may seem like the hardest part, but it doesn’t have to be.
Let me take you through a basic build with a meta description example.
Say, for example, I am a stress counselor, and I want people to book my therapy services.
Step 1: Get clear on your keywords and title. My keywords are stress, anxiety, and stress management, which I researched as being the best for my purposes using Google’s free keyword planner.
My title is: Social Media Stress Getting You Down? Simplify Life Online.
My title and keywords help me focus on what might attract people who need to know about this topic.
Step 2: Make sure you aren’t just repeating keywords. While you can use keywords in the meta description, only do so if they fit naturally.
Step 3: Identify the reader’s needs. In this example, they are feeling overwhelmed or stressed on some level and want me to show them how to fix this. So, my meta needs to be about the problem and solution.
My first draft would be:
Try 5 simple ways to reduce online noise while staying in touch with the world. How to create a quality experience out of your social media and bring peace back to your world.
Step 4: Assess if the description tells the reader what the page is about. What will they get if they click here? Yes, they’ll get five tips to manage online noise. Using numbers in your meta description is also psychologically appealing. It makes it clear and more defined so the reader knows what they are going to get.
Step 5: Check for active over passive voice. Do the subjects of the sentences act upon the verbs? Yes. If it was in passive voice, it would read, “Online noise is reduced in 5 simple ways.”
We want to avoid the passive voice because it can be too wordy and distracting. We don’t want anything in our meta description that confuses the reader in any way. An active voice keeps it simple and more immediate.
Step 6: Check for relevancy. Is my meta description relevant to people who are battling stress? Yes, my market research shows people are stressed by online and social media overload.
Step 7: Check the meta tag length. Is the meta description length 160 characters or less, including spaces? Uh oh, it’s a bit too long at 174 characters. That means readers won’t see the last few words because they will be cut off by search engine formatting. Let’s tweak it.
Try 5 simple ways to reduce online noise, stay in touch with the world, and create a peaceful, quality social media experience that you can easily manage.
That sits at 154 characters. Perfect! I can put more calls to action in the actual article that will hopefully have readers booking with me.
Common Meta Description Errors
Once you have created your meta description masterpiece, take a moment to check for any of these sad and sorry snafus.
1. Repetition, duplication, and reiteration. Do you see what I did there? Don’t do it; it’s wasting your words, and it also irritates the reader. Lazy SEO also uses the same meta description for many different web pages and articles, which is a boring cop-out. Repeating the title in the meta tag is a big no-no.
Title: Social Media Stress Getting You Down? Simplify Life Online.
Meta: Is social media stress getting you down? Read all about how social media is destroying our lives.
2. No call to action. Without this, the reader won’t know what to do next. The obvious thing is to click on the link, but that’s not the point. A call to action also uses active voice and an action verb—click, see, do, go, try, read—which inspires action. This meta below doesn’t inspire any action.
Meta: With the advent of social media in the 1960s, we are finding ourselves overloaded by increasing information.
3. Too wordy or dull. Passive voice, repetition, and info-dumping all contribute to this. Phrases like “in this article” that tell us the obvious are going to lose our interest straight away. Clarity, relevance, and active voice are key. Your meta is an advert, not a thesis.
Meta: In this gripping article, several psychological theories of media engagement will be discussed by Professor Iggy Popular, a noted media theorist.
4. Too muddled or noisy. Meta descriptions that distract, confuse, or require the reader to think too hard will lose attention. If the description is muddled, I don’t even want to try the actual webpage. It will probably be as bad.
This example, while somewhat making sense, just goes on about information that would be better in the article itself. Plus, there is a lack of logical flow with too much irrelevant information for a meta description.
Meta: Social media addictions are on the rise, say leading psychologists who deal with stressed-out clients every day. The suicide of Professor Popular is a key example. The theory of complexity is probably to blame, and we can’t deal with stress unless we cut our social media.
5. Bad grammar and punctuation. If you make mistakes in your online work, where else could you be wrong? Plus, we all know that a misplaced comma can change the entire meaning of a sentence. I haven’t done much to the meta below, just removed a few commas and put in a misplaced hyphen, but already, it has become harder to read and understand.
Meta: 5 simple ways to reduce online noise stay in touch with the world and create a peaceful quality social media experience - that you can easily manage.
Meta Descriptions That Win Awards
Well, maybe not awards, but these are all good examples of active, clear messages linked to things people want and need, offering solutions and understanding the audience while using emotive adjectives, action words, and direct calls to action.
Here, Airbnb is selling an experience. Great adjectives paint adventures and experiences. It is visual and actively asks you to ‘find’ all these great things.
Bing does it well too. You are clear on the fact it helps you with both information and action.
Lonely Planet speaks directly to what you love. It sells a whole experience and understands that people who love to travel want way more than a trip from A to B.
Lyft sells you a personal, friendly service. You get a sense of trustworthiness and simplicity.
Marriott gets that people want more than a hotel room; they want a specific experience, and they also don’t want any stress involved.
Snapchat isn’t just about sending messages; it connects you with friends.
YouTube connects with the reader on a personal level and speaks to things people want—music, friends, and family.
Uber Eats gets it in one simple, clear message. Find and order your favorite food. The call to action is clear, and the pain point it resolves is not having to drive there yourself. You can sit back and enjoy your meal.
Reddit also keeps it simple by telling you what they offer and providing a call to action—find communities you’re interested in.
And Those That Don’t
Not that we want to be too judgmental, but some meta descriptions out there don’t quite make the grade.
Take this one. It’s wordy, a bit repetitive, and too long. I’m also left wondering what it’s about. If I had the energy to click, I might, but it all seems like too much effort. I think the article may be as wordy and hard to read, so I will likely skip it altogether.
Here’s another example of a meta description that’s too long. While it uses some good description, the trailing-off sentences make this hard to read.
If I was looking for a date, I probably wouldn’t be sold on this shopping list of what I could get. Simply listing services and not talking to a need or experience is boring. Maybe their dates are just as boring? Skip!
And this sad snafu, which is ironically about writing a good meta description. It repeats, has some strange tag errors in it, and probably wasn’t checked properly before loading.
Meta Descriptions Matter
The importance of meta descriptions cannot be overstated. It’s clear by now that not spending enough time on this vital marketing element could lose you clicks, readers, and money.
You only have so much time and a limited number of words to impress an increasingly selective audience. Writing a catchy and effective meta description is not that difficult, and with a little practice, the effort will pay off.
But don’t just stop at the meta description. There are several content writing strategies you can use to deliver on what you promised readers in the meta description. After all, a great meta description is somewhat pointless if the rest of your content doesn’t live up to the hype.
While selling your product or getting clicks may be the final goal, always remember to pay attention to this vital step. It could be the difference between making or breaking your brand.