Guest Blogger Louise Boyd: “Louise is a professional copywriter based in Edinburgh and has worked in digital marketing for nearly a decade. While she has worked on copy for some very well-known brand, she particularly enjoys working with SMEs and start-ups to help them refine their tone of voice, messaging and content strategy. Louise also delivers digital skills training.”
Your meta descriptions may not be directly linked to the SEO performance of your site, however, click through rate absolutely is. Therefore, it’s essential your meta descriptions work extra hard to entice your potential visitors to click through and explore your website.
Hold up, what’s a meta description?
Just in case you’re wondering, a meta description is the name for the couple of lines of text that appear on the search results page, under the URL of your site. You can specify the meta description in the back end of your website, or a search engine can automatically select a section of text to represent what your web page is all about. The most effective meta descriptions are set by you – because you control exactly what they say. It may only be a couple of lines of text, but a good meta description is going to help you stand out from the crowd and kick your competitors to the kerb.
Of course, you don’t have to write a meta description for every web page; text will automatically pull through if you haven’t added anything manually. However, it’s just too good an opportunity to miss to direct some serious traffic to your website.
How To Up Your Meta Description Game…
Now to the juicy bit: the art and science of writing meta descriptions that grab the attention of your audience and convince them they must click through.
Here are some golden rules for writing meta descriptions that your target audience simply can’t resist:
Make Sure It Makes Sense
This should probably go without saying, but your meta description should be well written and make sense. Don’t just cram in a bunch of words. Write in full, grammatically correct sentences. You’re talking to humans, remember.
No Typos or Spelling Mistakes
Similar to the ‘make it make sense’ rule, double check you don’t have any cheeky typos which have snuck into your meta descriptions. Nothing screams unprofessional like a spelling mistake.
Include A Call To Action
This is the fun bit! It’s where you get to be really direct and tell your potential customers exactly what to do. “Browse our collection… “, “Take a look…”, “Find out about…”.
It may seem a little pushy, but from a psychological perspective, people like to be given a simple command that’s easy to follow. (Never say ‘click here’ though, that’s awfully old-fashioned now.)
While the search engines won’t pay attention to the specific words you use in your meta descriptions, users will. On a search engine results page of competing websites, users are likely to scan down to find what they’re looking for. If you sell women’s dresses, then say so in the meta description.
Let your brand’s personality shine through in the tone of voice you use in your meta descriptions. Are you a little Playful? Friendly? Professional? Make it sound interesting enough for someone to want to click through and get to know you better.
Character Limits & Front Loading Information
Ok, this is a tricky one, because the goal posts keep changing on character limit. If we’re getting really technical, the number of words that display in the search results is actually down to pixel width. But don’t worry about that.
For a long time, best practice was to stick to around 160 characters otherwise your meta description would be truncated. However, in December 2017 that limit ramped up to 300 characters. Digital marketers across the land scrambled to rewrite their client’s meta descriptions to take up as much real estate on the SERPs as possible.
Then, guess what? In May this year, the reported best practice for character limit went back down to around 130, since it appeared descriptions were being shortened on mobile devices. Cue digital marketers across the land pulling out their hair and pouring themselves a rather sizeable stiff drink.
So what’s the solution? Front load the most critical information. Make sure your first sentence tells your customer exactly why they should click on the link to your site, not someone else’s. You can’t control how the meta descriptions appear in SERPs, but you can make your first sentence work on its own to highlight the best things about your website, brand and offering.
Make a damn good first impression.
Above all, remember your meta description is one of the very first chances you’ll get to make an impression on your audience. Use all the tips above, and make it count!