From most business owners, they never get the attention they deserve.
When it’s time to create a blog or website page, many marketers see the part asking about meta descriptions and titles–and skip over it.
It’s a weird word. We get it.
Plus, when you Google search “meta” anything you come up with a plethora of daunting resources, and then you are smashed even further into confusion with more weird terms to associate with meta (i.e. SERPs, HTML, Panda, Penguin, meta titles, meta tags…you get where we’re going here).
But here’s the thing…
Meta description and titles are critical for your website.
That is if you want anyone ever to find it.
It is what feeds the search engine (with the right keywords), but also what drives a user to click on a particular search engine result. Without meta, your site is just another result sitting on the page with nothing to offer.
What Is A Meta Description?
The meta description is an HTML tag.
Don’t hyperventilate at the “HTML” letters. HTML is a good thing.
Meta descriptions are what get a visitor to click on your page from the search engine results. So, they are a superb thing.
Here’s how a meta description tag will typically look:
<meta name=”description” content=”Your page’s description goes here.”/>
Google doesn’t care what you have in your meta description, or so they say. However, Google does use your site’s click-through rate to determine if you are a good result for them to keep suggesting to users in the future.
So, yes, it does matter to Google.
You can find your website’s own click-through-rate (CTR) on your Google WebMaster Tools. Here you will locate the number of clicks, impressions, and the original query alongside the CTR percentage.
Philip Petrescu at Moz shared an excellent example of what a CTR result will look like:
You can check your own on your WebMaster Tools right now.
So, What Is The Meta Title?
The meta title is the SEO title of your post. It is the title that the search engine will display along with your meta description.
So again, paramount.
A study conducted in 2014 by the American Press Institute found that six out of 10 consumers read headlines only. They won’t read your description and they may not even read your entire article, but the headline is what drives them to the content and your page to begin with.
When using a platform like WordPress, you will notice that you have the option to write out your SEO title and meta description. Then, the system will let you preview what your description and title would look like in a search engine result. The tool that makes this happen is called the Yoast SEO plugin. Like so:
This is a valuable tool that you shouldn’t overlook. Being able to see what the final product would look like in a search engine result page can help you better decide how likely a person is to click on it.
How To Write A Meta Description And Title Like a Boss
Now that you know what a meta description is, and why it matters, you need to know how to create one that gets users to click and Google to notice.
1. Keep The Number Of Characters Correct
Okay, this is where it can get a little tricky.
Google is not big on giving exact numbers. Instead, they will decide how many they add to the search result and how much they want to show for your description.
Sometimes they’ll add the date it was published, which reduces the character count, according to Yoast.
The rule of thumb, however, is to keep it under 155 characters in case Google does inject some of their data in there.
Google has been playing around with longer lengths for their meta descriptions. You might have already noticed a few when you do a Google search of your own.
Here’s one I found:
Moz lucked out with a beautiful, long snippet from Google. In that same search engine result page, this was the only one that was extended. The rest were the usual characters.
According to Rebecca Sentance at Search Engine Watch, Google is also playing around with the length of tags; possibly squeezing them up to 69-70 characters.
For now, keep the title tag at the standard 50 to 60 characters until Google makes their stretch official and permanent. After all, you don’t want your title being cut off.
According to Moz, if you aim for less than 55 characters, you can guarantee your title will appear properly in the search engine results.
2. Use The Right Keywords In Your Description And Title
Yes, it’s confusing to be told to use keywords when you are also told that Google doesn’t use your meta description as a way to influence search engine results.
Yes, we get that.
However, keywords do matter. The keywords you’re targeting must show up in your meta description. That way, when the search engine identifies them in your description, they will bold them in the snippet for the user too.
This allows the user to judge how relevant your snippet is to what they’re searching for.
When it comes to meta titles, you need keywords. Search engines look for them in your content. These title tags are what tell a search engine and visitors what your site is about. The title is also what may be pulled as anchor text when your content is shared on social media.
So, yes, add your targeted keyword into the title if you can. Never squeeze in a keyword that doesn’t fit or is awkward; that’s just bad SEO.
3. Remember A Human Is Reading The Description
The description isn’t for your search engine rank; it’s for the reader. Therefore, it should be written for a human.
The days of slamming every single keyword into the description and walking away are over. Instead, you need to be able to squeeze something actionable and entertaining into less than 155 characters.
This is critical!
The description is short, succinct, but enticing. The reader should be compelled to click through and read more and almost feel as though they’re missing out if they don’t.
Here’s an example for you to chew on:
In this sample, you can see our title is about 10 SEO Writing Tips: Conquer & Rule Your Online Content Castle. Already we have a fun, character-correct title that is catchy.
However, we still need to reel in the reader with the description.
To make it fun and playful (and keep with the creativity in the title), we talk about defeating foes and the dragon with our SEO writing tips.
In this description we:
- Told the reader why they should read — good reason to click (in storytelling lingo at that!)
- Given them powerful adjectives to think about (enlightened and delighted).
4. Always Make The Description Match The Content
This is critical for search engines.
While Google may tell you that they don’t use descriptions to influence rankings, if your content doesn’t match the description and you trick a visitor into coming to your website, Google will be taking it up with you.
You could be penalized for creating that description, and you will have one heck of a bounce rate.
Where the bounce rate occurs and how high it is could affect your Google rank too, according to Adam Stetzer at Search Engine Watch. So, that is something to consider when you’re thinking of creating a sneaky description just to get someone over to your website.
5. Never Duplicate Your Meta Descriptions Or Titles
A title tag and a meta description can never be duplicated.
Google’s own Matt Cutts has made it clear not to do so. It’s an SEO no-no that will land you in hot water and could result in severe penalties for your website.
Instead, you need to consider what you’ve written and come up with something original, catchy, and entertaining.
If you have pages that are similar to one another, you still need to alter the text.
6. Create A Sense Of Urgency
Most importantly, you should create a sense of urgency within your meta description. That tells the reader what they will get if they click through now. You don’t have to put a time limit — after all, it could be evergreen content.
However, you want to make the reader feel as though they’re missing out on something big if they blow it off.
Sometimes just saying “things you must know now,” is all it takes for a reader to get into action and click.
Monitor, Review, Repeat
Lastly, do not write a description and walk away.
Instead, you need to continue to monitor the progress of that description and see how effective it is. This is done by measuring your CTR data. If you aren’t getting clicks, try changing it up and see if that helps improve your click-through-rate.
Writing Meta Descriptions And Titles For Your Target Audience Can Be Done
Now you know the meta basics, and you no longer have to run scared when WordPress prompts you.
However, if you find yourself stuck or you just aren’t ready to tackle the task and commit to writing them, you have options.
The team at Express Writers can help you not only create compelling, click-worthy metas, but we can also create content that is equally impressive for today’s user.
Need great metas? Check out our meta description writing services in our Content Shop today.