If you run your own website you likely spend a lot of time, and do a lot of research, on two topics: writing quality content, and improving your SEO. Both of those things will greatly help your website or brand and are definitely deserving of your time. However, in the midst of creating quality blog posts and web pages, have you forgotten about one written aspect that can boost your SEO and increase traffic to your website: your meta descriptions?
Meta descriptions are those short (usually around 160 characters) write-ups you see on search engine results pages right below the title. It is easy to forget about these when producing your content, but don’t overlook them. A good meta description should entice a user to click the link to your website, but for many websites, their meta descriptions turns users away.
These two websites came up towards the top of the page for the search “health foods.” The meta descriptions are there to describe what content a user will get when clicking on the link. Both list off healthy benefits of eating well, either for a good heart, or to try and lose weight. In the second example, however, the second sentence is cut off because there is no more space. This is one example of what not to do when writing your meta descriptions, as you want the entire write up to be seen by users.
Here are our tips for how to create effective meta descriptions.
The max number of characters you should have is 160, but you should probably try and have a few less than that, 150 is a good number to shoot for. The last thing you want is to spend your time coming up with compelling copy, only to find out that part of it gets cut off when displayed on search engines. It can be a challenge to write something meaningful with so few characters, but it isn’t impossible. This is similar to the challenge that comes from sharing your content on Twitter- how do you entice users to read your article in 140 characters or less? It’s not always easy, but it is possible to generate a few sentences that will be meaningful and encourage users to click.
Use action verbs
For starters, be sure to use action verbs in your meta descriptions. This is similar to the mindset when creating a solid call to action button, as you are encouraging a similar action (instead of clicking the CTA button, they are clicking the link to your page). Use phrases like “learn more” “build your knowledge” “grow your understanding” “get started” or “shop now.” The phrasing will depend on the particular page, so keep that in mind as well. If you are writing copy for a product page, something like “shop now” would be appropriate, where as it would not be for a blog post, and you should use something like “learn more.”
You should always make sure that each aspect of your meta description matches what the content actually is, as users don’t like to be tricked, Google may penalize you if you do it, and you surely will have high bounce rates.
Include your focus keyword
When developing your content you should have a focus keyword in mind that you use throughout the content. Keywords are still important for SEO, but they are not everything. Useful, well-written content will always be your best tool; so don’t go stuffing keywords all over the place. The same goes for your meta description! You want to use the focus keyword in the description, but don’t put it in a bunch of times just to have it there. Work it into the copy, which shouldn’t be that difficult, as it is the focal point of the page. SEO is constantly evolving, thankfully, meaning that value is with websites that have actual useful content that sounds natural, instead of robotic and full of keywords or phrases.
Make the content value clear
Why will a user benefit from clicking on your link instead of the link above yours? If there is something unique to your content, make it known! Have you done recent research in your field and have new data to show off? Have you just crafted a totally unique way to cook an otherwise ordinary dish? Let users know how they will benefit from your content, as that is one of the best ways you will actually get clicks to your page. You spend a lot of time creating valuable content, but that content isn’t worth much if no one sees it!
Finally, be unique when writing your meta descriptions. It can be tempting to create a standard description that you can place on all of your pages, but in the long run you are really hurting yourself. Meta descriptions can take some time to create, even though they are short in length, but it is well worth the time. While you may have a standard format that you follow, the actual content should be unique in some way to the page you are writing for. Again, this is what users are seeing when searching for the best website. Give yourself the best chance of selection by telling users why your content is best.