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How to Write Effective Meta Descriptions for SEO

Updated: Aug 6, 2019

With so many Search Engine Optimization strategies available, it can be easy to overlook some of the smaller, yet extremely effective ones. One very simple way to boost your click-through rate (CTR) from organic search engine queries* is by writing compelling meta descriptions.

The meta description tag is an HTML attribute that provides a short summary of a website’s page content. Search engines like Google or Bing display the meta description to help readers better understand the search results returned from their search queries. It forms the first impression that readers have of your content and plays an important role in deciding whether or not they decide to click on your content.

Although meta descriptions do not directly affect the ranking of your website, they can be your golden ticket for increasing relevant clicks to your website.

So, please. Do yourself a favor and spend a few minutes writing compelling meta descriptions that grab your audience’s attention.

The Anatomy of a Great Meta Description

  1. Value Add - A strong meta description tells the reader exactly what they’ll get when they click on your content’s URL. It’s important to be clear with what value you’re providing - whether it’s informational, entertainment, etc.

  2. Length - Meta descriptions can be any length but Google generally truncates snippets to ~156 characters. 120 characters is the new norm for mobile... for now. Keep them around this length so they aren’t cut off.

  3. Keywords - Incorporate keywords in meta descriptions that are directly relevant to the page. Google will bold keywords in the descriptions when they match search queries so these will help your page stand out. Since meta descriptions are short, stick to one or two of your most important keywords or phrases.

  4. Unique - Every page should have a unique meta description. This helps searchers (and search engines) quickly understand the purpose of each page's unique content.

  5. Call-to-Action - Encourage and entice readers with CTAs that are active and appealing.

5 Great Meta Description Examples to Inspire You

1. Chubbies

Takeaways: It's hard not to smile when you read this and if you're a fan of Chubbies, this is 100% on brand. Be informative but stay true to your brand and don't be afraid to have a little fun!

2. Whole Foods

Takeaway: Whole Foods knows exactly what their main keywords are. Think like a consumer, and include one or two keywords that you think are most relevant to your brand.

3. lululemon athletica

Takeaway: Readers and shoppers love perks. If you offer free shipping, a discount, or complimentary whatever - add it!

4. Oreos

Takeaway: This is a short and sweet example of how to creatively appeal to a reader's curiosity. I mean, how can you not click through? Bonus: they do a great job of using specific site link extensions to help point you in the right direction.

5. Pine Ridge Winery

Takeaway: It's welcoming, informative, and contains a CTA to visit their caves and tasting room. 10/10 right there. (P.S. Totally unrelated to meta descriptions, but add Pine Ridge Winery to your "must visit when in Napa list," especially if you're a Cabernet Sauvignon fan!)

How to Update Meta Descriptions on Your Website

If you are currently using WordPress on a self-hosted domain, meta descriptions can easily be added by using free plugins such as All in One SEO Pack. After you install it, you’ll need to review every page and update the meta description within the SEO Details box.

Other platforms may have SEO options built in as well that you can look for. If you can’t find them, do a search for your website’s platform and SEO plugin.

Note: Google will automatically create a meta description for your site if you don’t have one by selecting a few sentences that it thinks are relevant. However, while Google essentially owns the interwebs, it’s not a human. So it's really in your best interest to decide how your content should be advertised to potential readers/customers.

Pro tip: Stumped on what your meta descriptions should say? We love a Chrome extension called Meta SEO Inspector. Basically, you install the extension, go to one of your competitor websites and click the lightbulb. Meta SEO Inspector will show you their websites meta descriptions and titles.

A search engine has one job: suggest the most relevant results for a user’s given search query.

You’ve done the hard work and have created a beautiful site. But sadly, beauty doesn’t equal site traffic.

Therefore it’s YOUR job to help search engines do THEIR job. Take the extra steps to craft helpful meta descriptions that show users exactly what they are getting into when they click your result.

You’ll get more relevant site traffic, which means that with time, search engines will reward you with higher search rankings. And that, my friends, is the mother load of SEO win-wins.

Interested in having us give you some personalized strategies? Contact us today for a complimentary mini-site audit.

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