A meta description is an HTML ‘meta tag’ that gives a short summary of a page on a website. And since search engines show these summaries in lists of results, writing a good meta description is vital for SEO, as well as for enticing users to take a look at your website.
But what goes into a good meta description? Check out our tips to find out.
1. Keep It Brief
Ideally, a meta description should be the same length as the preview text shown in search results. This is around 150–170 characters on Google, although this does change now and then.
If your meta description is too long, the text in the preview will be cut off with an ellipsis. You can see this in the example below:
This is not a big problem, as a long description will not reduce your page rank. But you should ensure to give any essential information in the first 160 characters or so to make sure it is visible in search results.
2. Use Keywords
If you have a website, you should have a list of keywords and phrases linked to its content. These are terms that people search for online, so they’re an important part of SEO strategy.
When people discuss SEO, they often suggest using keywords in page copy and headings. But it is just as important to include them in meta descriptions, so don’t forget this vital step.
3. Give People What They Want
When people use a search engine, they’re looking for something. And to make sure they pick your site, your meta description should explain how you will meet their needs. This may be:
A solution to a problem, often via a product or service.
Information or an answer to a question.
When writing meta text, then, you need to think about what your target audience wants. You can then tailor the description to appeal to the people who see your site in search results.
4. Add a Call to Action
A call to action is a prompt for the reader to do something. And when they’re looking at a list of search results, the first thing you’ll want them to do is click on your site. Take the following example, for instance:
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Here, we have a question directed at the searcher followed by a very clear call to action. So if the user who made the search is indeed looking for an SEO tutorial, they will know to ‘Click here to sign up’.
The key here is offering a simple next step for the searcher to get what they want. As such, phrases such as ‘Click here’, ‘Learn more’ and ‘Try for free’ are all common in calls to action.
5. Stand Out from the Crowd
Finally, a good meta description should make your site stand out in a list of search results. Thus, you should always make the meta text on your site unique. After all, if your meta description is just like the rest of the results on Google, why should a searcher pick your site over others?
To make sure your site stands out, then, you may need to:
Look at the meta descriptions for competing websites in search results.
Think about what your site offers that others don’t.
You can then play up the ‘unique’ qualities of your site in the meta description. This is one result when you search for ‘search engines’, for instance:
Here, we have the meta description for search engine DuckDuckGo (ironically, listed on Google). Its selling point is offering better user privacy than its competitors. Its meta description thus focuses entirely on how it differs from ‘other search engines’. And as such, anyone who sees this text listed in search results will know exactly what makes DuckDuckGo unique.
Summary: How to Write a Meta Description
When writing a meta description, remember the following tips:
Aim for a length of around 160 characters.
Include keywords and phrases in meta text.
Summarise what the page is about and how it can meet site users’ needs.
Include a call to action, such as ‘Learn more’ or ‘Try for free’.
Be unique. See how competing websites use meta descriptions and think about how to make yours stand out in the list of results.
And as with rest of your website, it pays to have your meta text checked by a professional. So submit your copy for proofreading today to make sure it is clear, compelling and error free before it goes online.