How To Write And Optimize Meta Descriptions For Maximum Click-through Rates

How To Write And Optimize Meta Descriptions For Maximum Click-through Rates

SEO has become a zero-sum game. It’s crowded at the top, and competition for organic rankings is fierce. You must bring your A-game if you want to get your nose ahead of the competition. Whether you are launching a startup, running an eCommerce store, or making your money through affiliate marketing, you are jostling for eyeballs. The more people see your content and follow you to your site, the more your business grows. Meta description optimization is a crucial part of your on-page SEO efforts. Recent research by Ahrefs showed 74.98% of pages ranking in the top 10 have a meta description.

In this article, I will show you how to write stellar meta descriptions that get the click.

First, let’s get the essentials out of the way.

What Is A Meta Description?

The meta description is a snippet of copy of around 160 characters that briefly describes the contents of a web page.

It appears under the page title and URL on Search Engine Results Pages (SERP). 

Here is an example.

Meta Descriptions

Meta Descriptions: Why Bother About Them?

While meta descriptions aren’t a direct ranking factor, they:

  • Increase click-through-rates (CTR)
  • With increased CTRs, comes increased traffic.
  • Increase on-page conversions (potentially).
  • Empower you to control the narrative around your content.
  • Allows you to influence the behavior of searchers.

So worthwhile are these benefits that you must sharpen your copywriting skills so you nail your descriptions. Or, if you have more money than time, outsource meta description writing to a professional copywriter.

The Meta Description: Your Post’s Ad

So, what’s the purpose of a meta description?

Simple.

It’s your article’s advertisement. 

If the ad is poor, searchers won’t be persuaded to check out the piece of content you are advertising.

Here are 7 elements of an effective meta description (ad):

  1. Stops the scroll so the searcher pauses and starts reading.
    Searchers scan SERPs fast. An excellent description grabs attention, forces them to stop and concentrate on the copy.
  2. Sucks the searcher into the copy—fast.
    Relevant descriptions are magnetic. They instinctively pull searchers into the copy without them realizing it.
  3. Serves an attractive benefit or sparks curiosity.
    Searchers always ask, “What’s in it for me?” An excellent description dangles irresistible juicy benefits before prospective readers.
  4. Scratches a troubling itch the reader has.
    People gravitate towards anything that helps them relieve or get rid of the pain completely. So if you promise them a cure to their sickness, you’ll be guaranteed of their full attention.
  5. Seduces the reader to take immediate action.
    Noteworthy descriptions build anticipation and entice readers to click-through to the post.
  6. Sums up the contents of the page accurately.
    Google loves descriptions that give a pin-point description of what the page is about memorably.

Because the meta description is your post’s ad, make it count otherwise your brilliant content won’t be read.

First Things First: Get The Length Right

Google cuts off meta description copy at around 160 characters.

Stay on the safe side and ensure all (or most) of your copy gets read, stick to 155 characters or fewer.

Sadly, up to 40.61% of pages have meta descriptions that truncate before they fully communicate the message.

Meta Descriptions

Yes, Google sometimes shows longer descriptions, but in most cases, the regular 160 characters get displayed.

If your description is longer than the prescribed character limit, put the most important info at the beginning of your copy. That way, you communicate your whole message before it gets chopped off—and if the longer version is shown you still reap the benefits.

How do you write meta descriptions that get the click?

9 Easy Steps To Writing Magnetic Meta Descriptions

Wondering how you can craft winning meta descriptions that inspire searchers to click? Here are some quick tips to help you do just that.

Let’s jump in.

#1. Research Posts Ranking Front Page For Your Keyword

Discover and dissect the descriptions of page #1 content.

They are on the front page because they do something right. Evaluate their techniques. 

  • What do their descriptions have in common?
  • Any words or expressions that stand out?
  • What do they lead with in their copy?
  • Does the copy include company branding?
  • Are there any gaps you can leverage?

Emulate them, but with your twist.

Don’t forget to check Google AdWords as well for clues on what to do.

#2. Revisit Your Buyer Personas 

Remember, your goal isn’t to attract the entire world to your site. 

You want your ideal prospects. People who are most likely to take the next step in your customer journey and end up becoming loyal customers.

Remind yourself of their problems, pains, and dreams. Hook them by touching on some of their biggest needs and aspirations in your copy. 

You could:

  • Appeal to their dreams.
  • Address their pain.
  • Answer their biggest questions.
  • Hook them with benefits.

In their post about timeline infographics, Venngage woos potential readers by telling them their guide is fool-proof and easy to follow because it’s step-by-step.

Meta Descriptions

Because love reliability and easy stuff, they’re likely to click-through to the page. 

#3. Speak To Searchers In Their Language

Another way to draw searchers into your copy is by speaking to them in their language.

No, I don’t mean French, English, or Russian.

I’m talking about the pain-point language. The words and phrases they use when they talk about concerns, frustrations related to the problems you solve.

But where do you get those expressions?

Easy.

Follow them to their favorite online watering holes:

  • Niche forums.
  • LinkedIn or Facebook groups.
  • Twitter chats.
  • The comment section of leading blogs.

Be on the lookout for phrases they use repeatedly, shared dreams, and popular expressions.

Once you’ve established their pain-point language, weave it into your copy.

When you reflect their words to them, they’ll identify with them and respond.

#4. Lead With Your Keyword But Don’t Force It

Feature your keyword in the meta description.

This instantly tells search engines, and people the focus of your article.

Some quick tips on how to include your keyword:

  • Put your keyword in the first part of your sentence, but be reasonable.
  • Including the keyword isn’t enough, make sure the sentence reads naturally.
  • Your description must be useful, not keyword-stuffed.

#5. Be Hyper-specific, Avoid Blanket Terms And Cliches

Next, when crafting your meta description, be hyper-specific, not general.

Specificity is sharp and persuasive. Generality is bland and unconvincing. 

Also, avoid jargon and cliches. They sound complicated but don’t communicate anything to the common users. Jargon is high-sounding nothing. Worse, it slows people down as they pause to understand them. That’s the last thing you want. Your goal is for searchers to move swiftly through your copy, click on your title, and read your content.

You are better off using simple, everyday language people grasp fast.

For instance, don’t say:

The guide exhibits how to master daily time management and have a couple of extra hours at your disposal.

Instead, say:

The guide shows you how to save time and shave off two-and-a-half hours out of your daily routine.

#6. Include A Riveting Call-To-Action

The goal of your snippet is to drive action, the precious click that takes searchers to your website so they consume your content.

The best way to do that is to use verbs that drive immediate action.

After all, a verb is a doing word to recite an elementary English class lesson. 😄

The following verbs are a significant starting point:

  • Read.
  • Learn.
  • Discover.
  • Get.
  • Grab.

To entice users to click, urge them to do something.

#7. Write A Unique Description For Each Page

Every post must have a tailormade meta description. 

Google recommends this:

  • “Make sure that every page on your site has a meta description.
  • Differentiate the descriptions for different pages. Identical or similar descriptions on every page of a site aren’t helpful when individual pages appear in the web results. In these cases, we’re less likely to display the boilerplate text.” 

If you don’t have the time to write a new description for each page, focus on your most important content assets. Or, optimize descriptions of pages that are already getting organic traffic. 

But don’t be lazy and use the same description for many pages.

Duplicate meta descriptions:

  • confuse search engines and searchers.
  • don’t describe what a specific page is about.
  • don’t address what the user is searching for.

#8. Match The Reader’s Search Intent

Users type a search query into a search engine for a reason, right?

Put yourself in your reader’s shoes. What are they looking for?

People search online because they want to:

  • Get certain information. (Informational Intent)
  • Visit a particular website. (Navigational Intent)
  • Researching products. (Commercial Investigation)
  • Buy something. (Transactional Intent)

But you must go deeper than these general categories. Study top-ranking content to see what the specific user end-goal is and angle your description towards that. 

Your description must persuade the user that your content will give them exactly what they are looking for.

#9. Align It To The Content Of The Page

Your meta description isn’t an independent entity.

It’s there to serve and promote your page.

No matter how silky or brilliant your description is, if it isn’t connected to the page content, it’ll fall flat.

For your description to work, tie it seamlessly to the main takeaways of your page content.

A mismatch between your meta description and page content increases the bounce rate. On seeing an outrageously high bounce rate, Google will conclude readers aren’t getting what they are looking for from your page.

As a result, they won’t send traffic your way.

3 Common Meta Description Copy Mistakes To Avoid Like The Plague

People often make errors when they write meta descriptions. Here are the top three oversights and how to fix them.

#1. Omitting The Keyword

The keyword is the first thing search engines pick to understand what the copy is about and points to. So without one, you make things difficult. 

Skipping the keyword also means you hand over control of your post’s narrative to Google. Search engines usually take the first instance where the keyword is used and displays that. But that snippet may not be compelling enough to draw a click from searchers.

#2. Overusing The Keyword

Another common mistake is going to the other extreme of the first misstep—cramming the short copy with the keyword on every turn.

You’ll produce ridiculous copy no sane human wants to read.

The result?

Your CTRs will tank.

Instead, focus on the content’s benefits and user intent.

#3. Repeating Verbatim Snippets From The Page

An easy cop-out to writing unique descriptions is copying and pasting lines for your post.

While this is better than excluding a meta description altogether, it won’t produce results like writing a dedicated summary.

To achieve the best results, treat it like a pitch for your page. Pack it with well thought out persuasive language.

SERP Preview Tools For Smart Meta Description Optimization

Thankfully, there are plenty of SEO tools you can use to fine-tune your description.

Most of the tools allow you to:

  • Preview the description (desktop or mobile version).
  • Select the preview screen size.
  • Suggest areas for improvement.

Yoast is one of the leading SEO tools that allow you to optimize the meta description in your WordPress dashboard.  Here’s a preview of my post on how to write a content brief.

Meta Descriptions

You can also use the following online tools.

These tools help you polish up your copy and give your description the best chance to convince readers to give your content a go.

A study by Moz showed at the very least, Google uses 55% of meta descriptions as they are exactly or part of the original supplied by webmasters. 

Having said all this, sometimes Google ignores your meta description as a webmaster. In its place, they put a part of the webpage copy they feel better addresses the user’s query.

Meta Description: A Few Words That Pack A Big SEO Punch

Because meta descriptions are only 32 or so words long, they look insignificant. Not at all. Those few words make a big difference. 

A-grade descriptions serve a crucial SEO purpose. 

They boost the:

  • Quantity of your traffic.
  • Quality of your traffic.
  • Conversions of your content.

So, whatever you do, spend time writing and optimizing meta descriptions because the results are worth it. 

Qhubekani Nyathi