How To Write Compelling SEO Meta Descriptions
Meta descriptions are small snippets of HTML text that are displayed on SERP pages underneath the website link. They are primarily used for summarizing the content of the page, like a little preview.
Take our meta description, for example, highlighted in yellow.
Meta descriptions are a maximum of 160 characters in length, and thus tend to be written concisely.
Do Meta Descriptions Affect SEO?
The answer to how meta descriptions affect SEO is complicated. In terms of overall performance, yes, they do. But strictly in terms of increasing ranking by being picked by Google’s algorithm, no.
In 2009, Google developers explained that “Google doesn’t use the “keywords” meta tag in our web search ranking” (2009 )
The reason for this came down to abuse via keyword stuffing, “Because the keywords meta tag was so often abused, many years ago, Google began disregarding the keywords meta tag.”
This does not mean that meta descriptions do not affect SEO at all, however.
Meta descriptions that are written compellingly give searchers an easier time understanding what a page has to offer before clicking. By virtue of this, meta descriptions improve SEO by improving CTR, and increasing organic traffic.
This is especially true for blog writing, as readers appreciate a brief snippet of information to determine whether the information is relevant to them or not.
How Meta Descriptions Help SEO
Meta tags can Increase Ranking through CTR and Organic Traffic
Just because meta descriptions don’t specifically increase ranking opportunities, does not mean that you should avoid implementing keywords while writing them.
Google will still bold relevant words in the meta description, making them stand out to searchers. The latter image shows an example of this, with the term Smartwebpros being bolded in the meta description.
This boosts CTR, or ‘click-through rate’ by appearing to be relevant to the searcher, thus increasing the chances they will click the link. The more organic traffic comes to your website, the better your ranking will be.
In other words, meta descriptions do help your website rank, in a roundabout way.
Meta tags Show up When Articles are Shared on Social Media
A less known aspect of meta tags is that they show up by default when an article or page is shared on social media. This is more important than you may think in the long-term.
Without a set meta description, social media sites will fill in the preview text with whatever is available. This would be the first few sentences of the page or article in most cases. That being said, an intro text from the article may not make sense as a short snippet, thus looking unattractive to searchers.
Preemptively writing a meta description at least allows you to control this so that in the event an article is shared, it appears professional in the confinement of the 160 character limit.
How to Write Meta Descriptions
Writing a good meta description requires consciousness and knowledge of writing ad copy.
Keywords by themselves help by appearing important as bolded words; however, there is no reason for the consumer to click. Writing meta tags like ad copy creates this need.
Within the 160 character limit, you should try to create a sense of urgency that grabs the searcher on a personal level.
Appeal to Emotions
Every person has wants and desires to fulfil, which is what Google meets by providing the most relevant information. Knowing this, creating an emotional appeal in your meta tag will attract more visitors who are searching for something particular.
The easiest way is to explain how your product or page holds the key to a personal want.
For example, people who want to lose weight have a particular issue they want to solve. Describing how your product or service has information that can ‘make you look thinner’ will grab attention at this deep level.
HP Lovecraft once said “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown”
This is especially true when it comes to writing compelling ad copy. People go on Google to search for answers, pointing out that they are ignorant of what they are searching for initially.
Yet, it could be that a particular service you offer has severe consequences and problems that only you can fix. Mentioning these potential problems not only grabs attention, but it also makes the searcher trust your content more. That is, if you are genuinely providing correct information.
An example would be information on ‘strange smells coming from a furnace.’
The smell of rotten eggs and sulphur indicates a gas leak, leading to an explosion. This kind of factual information grabs attention, while not being manipulative.
Instead of resorting to grandstanding, and explaining how fantastic and great something is, it is better to reveal subtle benefits.
This includes how a problem or chore can be made easier, or how cost can be reduced.
In essence, quality-of-life benefits, and economic benefits.
What Not to Do When Writing Meta Descriptions
Do not Spam Keywords or do keyword Stuffing
Spamming keywords incites two detrimental consequences to your ranking.
Keyword stuffing, or language that sounds very spammy, is a huge red-flag in Google’s book. If Google thinks you are keyword stuffing, then they will blacklist your content as untrustworthy.
The second detrimental effect is that spamming keywords in an uncreative manner will create duplicate content.
Duplicate content occurs when a meta description features the same keywords as others, which of course does not help with ranking at all. Ranking higher requires delivering creative, informative content that makes you stand out from the crowd.
Do Not Use Double Quotation Marks
Using double quotation marks within a meta description will make your text invisible to Google. In the HTML code.
For more information on how you can improving your SEO efforts, visit our SEO Blog Writing Guide.