Max Out Your Meta-Description
Published on November 4, 2016
You write incredible content, optimized for SEO and for driving in conversions. Awesome! But now, how do you get people to read it?
The most effective way for selling your content to curious searchers? Write a great meta-description!
The meta-description for your content is the brief paragraph that appears below your headlines on search engine results pages (SERPs; think of it as your list of results when searching on Google). Optimizing your meta-description for readers is a surefire way to quickly sell your content to readers eager to get to the root of their search. But how do you make sure your description stands out?
To get to the bottom of that pressing question, let’s talk a little bit about what a meta-description does – and how to make sure that yours are efficient and ready to take on the challenge of winning over searchers:
Why do Meta-Descriptions Matter?
Why spend time considering your meta-description? Because you should never underestimate the value of a good first impression!
While it’s not directly tied to your Google ranking, your meta-description goes a long way toward making your content stand out on a SERP, encouraging clickthrough. So, while the description doesn’t appeal to search bots explicitly like other on-page SEO elements - like, say, your URL or meta-tags – it nonetheless does make an enormous difference for your SEO in time.
In theory, the better your meta-description, the more organic clicks you’ll see; the more engagement and search clicks that you get, the more that search engines will privilege your content, leading to even more organic traffic in the future. It’s a hugely beneficial cycle, and all you need to set it off is a few sentences of compelling copy!
And let’s not forget that SEO requires both on-page and off-page optimization to be as successful as possible. The surest way to goose up your backlinks, the cornerstone of off-page SEO, and drive in valuable referral traffic, is through social media.
Meta-descriptions are automatically pulled in by Facebook and LinkedIn when you share a link; crafting a meta-description is an easy way to make sure that your social audience gets an accurate, appealing synopsis of your content, rather than the jumble of links or characters that may be automatically pulled in otherwise.
How Can I Make My Meta-Descriptions Better?
With all of this in mind, here are a few ways to make sure your meta-description a more powerful voice for your content:
While adding keywords to your meta-description won’t appeal to Google’s algorithm per se, it can make a big difference for your human searchers. If you’re searching for “dog treats,” for example, you’d prefer to click on a link with a meta-description that emphasizes dog treats, right? At the same time, avoid repeating keywords. Which can easily read as mechanical “keyword stuffing,” a major SEO turn-off. And stick to one or two important keywords or phrases, making them easier for your audience to pick out at a glance.
Watch Your Length
As with so many pieces of web copy, keep your meta-description concise! Stick to the basics and write no more than three sentences. While Google hasn’t set character parameters, it restricts meta-descriptions by width, measuring in pixels. A good rule of thumb, according to Hubspot, is to set a benchmark of 155 characters. And keep a close eye on your punctuation! Google hates non-alphanumeric characters in meta-descriptions, including quotes, which tend to get cut off.
Above all, Focus on Good Copy
Don’t deceive your search audience with false claims or promises; do sell them on why your post is the right solution for their specific problems. Try offering a tease to encourage clicks, offer a synopsis to make your content seem trustworthy, or focus on benefit-centered language (i.e., what your user will get from your content). In any case, be ready to try again and again. As with all things, meta-description copy will take practice – and lots of trial and error – before you find the voice and style right for your brand.
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