If you’ve been doing SEO for a while, you probably know that meta description is one of the most important onpage SEO elements. Well-written meta descriptions entice people to click on your site if it appears in SERP.
Meta descriptions are the HTML tags that show on (SERP) as a description of what the link or your page entails.
A successful meta description will accurately describe the experience a user will have or the information they will find in your page, and it’ll convince them to choose your link over others.
So, in this article, I’ll share five tips and tricks to write a meta description that will accomplish both of those goals, which will also increase your CTR.
One note before we dive in: the search engine (often Google) has the final say about what it shows to users as your meta description. While you may write a version that you feel is perfect, Google can override or truncate your text if it decides the updated version is what reflects your content best.
If you notice that your meta descriptions are being replaced by Google’s version consistently, take that as a sign to revisit your copy and make some updates. Or, if Google’s version is getting a better CTR than yours, consider leaving it alone.
With that caveat covered, let’s dive into our first tip.
1. Review other high-ranking content.
As part of your initial content and keyword research, make sure to take a look at the articles that are currently in the top few SERP slots for the keywords you’re targeting. This is your competition, and your meta description needs to beat theirs in the eyes of your audience.
Once you know who you’re competing with, review their meta descriptions for inspiration. If any trends emerge, make sure to apply what you found to your own content. For example, for some keywords, Google seems to prioritize meta descriptions with specific statistics included. For others, it prefers a specific call-to-action in the text, like “Click here for more!” or “Learn more.”
Whatever you find, keep in mind that if many of the top-ranking meta descriptions have any feature in common, you should plan to include it in your own meta description as well.
Recommended Reading; How to do keyword research
2. Follow character count guidelines
One of the most important elements to nail in your meta description is your character count. While you may not see a strict character limit in the back-end of your CMS, keep in mind that Google most commonly displays between 140 and 160 characters of the meta description you provide. If you go longer than that, your copy will likely be truncated with an ellipsis added at the end.
With this in mind, make sure your first 140 characters tell the full story of why someone should click on your link.
Anything extra is just bonus context (which you should expect to be truncated in many cases), but the first 140 characters are what really count since they’re more likely to be shown to every user.
For context, 140 characters is roughly two medium-sized sentences or three short sentences, so you don’t have much to work with. Take some time to make your meta description concise, and you’ll avoid the pitfalls of other brands whose descriptions are so long that they aren’t useful.
3. Focus on the benefit of the content to the reader.
Next, let’s talk about the content of the meta description itself. In your few short sentences describing your link, it’s important to focus on the benefit to the reader or end user who will be clicking through to the site.
While you may know that your content is valuable for dozens of reasons, keep your meta description dialed in on one or two benefits that users might be looking for when they search related keywords.
For example, rather than using your meta description to list off your business’s products, you may want to include descriptive language like “high-quality” or “reliable” and highlight a few of your bestsellers. Consider what you’d want to see if you were looking for content like yours, and make sure that’s reflected in the final meta description.
4. Include your content’s target keyword.
I’ve mentioned keywords a few times so far, and that’s because they’re critical to all things content-related, including your meta description.
As part of your SEO or content strategy, your target keyword should be thoughtfully selected for its relevance to the content you’re linking to. As long as that’s the case, make sure to include your target keyword in the meta description itself—preferably in the first few words.
While Google and other search engines aren’t 100% transparent about what goes into the algorithms they use to rank content on the SERP, we do know that aligning your meta description with the target keyword is a factor that works in your favor more often than not.
Recommended Reading; The Best Tools for Keyword Research
5. Audit the final description from the reader’s perspective.
Lastly, take a holistic look at the experience from the reader’s perspective. You can even search a longer-tail keyword in the search engine to try to get your content in one of the first few slots. That way, you can review all the elements together as the user would see them.
Take one last look at your meta description, and note how it fits in with the other features of the listing.
Look at the way the page’s title shows up, the URL that shows above it, and any additional features that may show below the meta description. Then, put yourself in your audience’s shoes.
Would you click?
If not, go back to the drawing board to make improvements until the answer is a clear “Yes!” If you click, plan to come back to this process every few months to make sure Google hasn’t changed your meta description and to make sure you’d still click your link over the competition.
Ultimately, meta descriptions are a powerful tool to help increase CTR and bring more users into your website. Although they take some time and thought to execute correctly, that investment into your business will continue to pay dividends long-term. Try out these tips for your next meta description, and watch as your CTR starts to skyrocket.