A meta description is an HTML tag that describes what your webpage is about. It can be set for a post or page on your website. These descriptions are used to summarise what your webpage is about for users to decide if clicking on your result in the SERPs is worthwhile.
Why meta descriptions are important
Although meta descriptions are not a direct ranking factor, they serve a very important feature – click through. In search results, there are a range of other websites all competing against one another; aside from SERP placement, how are you supposed to stand out amongst the rest?
Meta descriptions are like free advertising space – they unlock the opportunity to write a neat sales pitch that tells users why they should be clicking on your result instead of others.
Sure, there is no direct SEO benefit from meta descriptions, but the indirect benefit of increasing click-through-rate (CTR) is what you’re after here.
Google has recently updated its documentation on meta descriptions; using the lessons learned from this, we’re going to take a deep dive into how to write perfect meta descriptions that entice users to click on your result over your competition.
How to write great meta descriptions
Before we get into the nitty gritty of things, let’s recap what Google’s updated documentation says about meta descriptions.
According to Google, you need to be accurate and descriptive about what your webpage is about. If it’s a product – describe the product. If the page is informational – summarise the entire webpage.
Now to get to the reason you’re here.
Things to avoid
In the pursuit of creating click-worthy meta descriptions, aim to avoid doing the below.
- Listing keywords – “Sewing supplies, yarn, coloured pencils, sewing machines, threads, bobbins, needles.
- Using the same description for every news article – “Local news in South Africa, delivered to your doorstep. Find out what happened today.”
- Not summarizing the page – “Eggs are a source of joy in everyone’s life. When I was a small child, I remember picking eggs from the hen house and bringing them into the kitchen. Those were they days.”
- Being too brief – “Mechanical pencil”
Now that you know what to avoid when writing meta descriptions, here’s what you should be doing.
What you should be doing
To create meta descriptions that work for you, strive to do the below.
Create unique descriptions for each page on your site
Ensure that each page has a unique description. Having identical of similar descriptions are not helpful when individual pages appear in search results. Where possible, create descriptions that accurately describe the specific page.
Include relevant information about the content in the descriptions
Your meta description doesn’t have to be just in sentence form. It is also a great place to include information about the page – for example, news postings can list the author, date of publication, or byline information.
Programmatically generate descriptions
For some websites, generating accurate and unique descriptions is easy since each page/article is handwritten. But larger database-driven websites, hand-written descriptions can be near impossible. In this case, programmatic generation of descriptions are encouraged as long as they are human-readable and diverse.
Use quality descriptions
Ensure that your descriptions are truly descriptive. High quality meta descriptions can go a long way to improve the quality and quantity of your website traffic.