Digital Retail & Technology | Marketing & Merchandising

How to write more effective meta descriptions

September 27, 2021

This article is provided by Reshift Media, a Canadian-based digital marketing and development organization specializing in retail businesses.

Meta descriptions, synonymous with meta tags, can be an easily overlooked step when creating website content that will appear on a search engine results page (SERP). With such a short number of words needed to fill a meta description, should there be that much thought put into it or does the title carry more weight?

The answer is both! Of course, crafting a click-worthy blog headline or page title is important to increase engagement and click-through rate (CTR), especially amongst the sea of results on a SERP, but the small space under that great title is a chance for the reader to uncover what they will find on your webpage. Because the description has a word limit, it is important to make sure you put thought and consideration into what you are writing.

Meta descriptions can affect how your site appears to a user and if they will click on your website or not. We also can’t forget about search engine optimization (SEO), as an optimized meta description will help your overall SEO strategy since it is one of the very first things a user will notice when searching, and a search engine will use when ranking.

This post will outline some of the ways you can effectively write a meta description that will increase your CTR and generate more engagement. A proficient strategy that you maintain will produce greater outcomes long-term.

What is a meta description?

As previously mentioned, a meta description is what you will find underneath the title of your webpage on the SERP. In terms of word count, it’s best to keep it short and concise, as Google will usually cut it down to about 155-160 characters. Remember, the meta description is essentially a summary of your article, so save the “good stuff” for the article. For example, for this article we could use, “Learn what meta descriptions are and get tips on how to write better ones to generate more clicks and improve your search ranking.”

A meta description itself is a section of HTML code that you control, hence why it is often referred to as a meta description tag. If you are familiar with the back end of your website, you will notice “meta name” within the code, and that is where you will insert your meta description.  Many Content Management Systems (CMSs) like WordPress allow you to add an easy-to-use plugin such as Yoast or SEOPress that are incredibly user friendly and will alert you if your description is too long.

It is important to keep in mind that Google, for instance, continuously adjusts its techniques, and there may be times where your meta description is not displayed to searchers at all. In this case, a snippet from your webpage will appear on the SERP rather than your meta description. This can occur for several reasons, but Google will do this when it finds the existing meta description doesn’t accurately answer what the searcher is looking for.

This may seem like a loss, seeing as how you took time to write a meta description, but it’s important to keep in mind that even if Google isn’t displaying your meta description, it may still be used to factor your search ranking. It’s also important to remember that Google is not the only search engine, and others may still display your meta description, so don’t give up hope if you find one search engine that doesn’t always show what you have written. 

Use keywords and synonyms

When writing your meta description, using key search terms and keywords that match the content you are putting forth will not only help confirm with the person searching that your webpage is aligned with what they are inquiring about, but it will also help Google be more inclined to use your meta description since it matches what your webpage outlines. You will also find that when you do this, those specific keywords that a user uses in their inquiry become bolded in your meta description, which can attract the user to your specific search result on the page.

Although using focus keywords in your meta description is important, it’s even more important to remember that your description needs to be readable, and using the same keyword multiple times in such a short number of words may come across as awkward, or it may not hit exactly what they are inquiring about. A great way to find and use a variety of keywords is through free keyword tools like Google Keyword Planner or SEMrush Keyword Magic Tool

Using these keyword generators can also help you come up with synonyms or latent semantic indexing (LSI), which are search terms that relate to the targeted keyword you are using. Using LSI can help the user understand what your content will provide them and will help you to use more expansive terms to provide a description. Doing so will also let search engines understand what your content is about, which will increase the likelihood of the search engine displaying your meta description.

Include a call-to-action

Including a call-to-action (CTA) in your meta description can often increase the likelihood of a user clicking on your webpage. In advertisements or website copy, a CTA usually involves a user performing an extra step, such as signing up or purchasing something, but in a meta description, the goal here is to get the user to click on your link. That means the description you write should flow into the CTA at the end.

For instance, “Get it now” or “Start your free trial today” are examples of CTA’s you can use in your meta description, which will subsequently follow a summary of a particular service you offer. Of course, if using a “free trial” CTA, make sure your meta description and webpage mentions something related to it. Accordingly, a CTA could also include “Learn more” or “Learn how to” that you can include within the copy, not necessarily at the end, which also gives off the same impact you’re trying to achieve.

A clear CTA can prompt the user to click, but it will also give them an idea of what to do when they arrive on your website. Back to the example of a free trial – when a user notices this on the SERP, they can look for the free trial link on your website and fulfil the CTA. (Tip: if using a CTA similar to this example, make sure your website features it easily and immediately, that way the user doesn’t have to search that much).

Ensure consistency, not duplication

Your meta description must be consistent with the content on your webpage. Failing to do allows a search engine to create its own meta description or SERP snippet, which may not exactly fit with what you are aiming for. Similar to how a misleading title that is only meant to gain attention will lead to a higher bounce rate (the number of visitors on a website that leaves after only viewing one page), a misleading meta description that doesn’t accurately summarize the webpage’s content can lead to  search engines flagging it as low quality or spam and cause issues like a lowered domain authority.

It is also worth noting that each webpage needs its own meta description. Often, one may take the time to craft a brilliant meta description and feel that it applies to multiple pages on their website. However, this will only cause more issues for both the user, as they will notice this duplication and can be confused as to which link will offer them the best answer to their inquiry, and the search engine because duplicate meta descriptions can look like spam.

Remember, changing a few words, but keeping the rest of the copy the same in your meta description doesn’t count – it needs to accurately summarize each webpage, which should have unique copy. Also keep in mind that if anything changes on your website, it needs to be reflectedin your meta description, which can easily be updated.

Push for creativity & originality

A meta description is similar to a first impression – it is one of the first things a user will see before visiting your website, and how you pitch your meta description to a user will play a role in if they feel your website accurately matches their search needs. Although search engines may not always display the meta description you create, you should still use it as an opportunity to succinctly summarize what your webpage or blog post is about.

When you create an article or webpage copy, the creativity and originality from it needs to flow into the meta description, as well. This is where writing for the user in a natural tone will ultimately benefit you. Only writing to rank high on the SERP by keyword stuffing may cause it to come across that way, which users can see right through as being inauthentic.

Remember, this is your pitch to the user, so it’s key to first know who your audience is that searches for your brand, understand their needs, and then write directly to them in a short and “to the point” manner. Keep in mind your brand’s voice and style as you write your meta description as well so that it remains on brand.

Next steps

Now is your chance to update your meta descriptions using these suggestions. The goal is to accurately summarize each webpage, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself and overthink your 160 characters or less – stick to the facts and keep it interesting so that it entices a user to click on your link.


About Reshift Media

Reshift Media is a long-time partner of the Retail Council of Canada. The company is a Toronto-based digital marketing and development organization that provides leadingedge social media, search and website/mobile development services to retailers around the world. Please visit www.reshiftmedia.com to learn more.

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