Don’t be put off by the jargon. I know that the term ‘meta description’ is hardly self-explanatory, and perhaps even sounds a bit too geeky/technical to really worry about. And as for ‘CTRs’ – what the hell are those?
Well, a CTR simply refers to your Click-through Rate. Your click-through rate is measured by the amount of times web users click-through on one of your links to the corresponding blog post, article, offer, or what have you. Obviously, as marketers, we want to increase our CTRs as much as possible, for more clicks mean more traffic, and more traffic (we hope) means more conversions for more business and more revenue.
Simple enough, right?
When trying to increase the CTR on our blog posts, the most common area of focus is on the title and featured image. A snappy, intriguing and emotionally engaging headline of course encourages more click-throughs than a long-winded and boring one. And the same holds true with the featured image – the better it engages and chimes with the headline, the higher the likelihood of a good CTR.
But there’s one other factor that is too often ignored by the marketer, and that’s the meta description.
What’s A Meta Description?
You know when you Google something and you’re returned with a list of links? Well, those couple of sentences beneath the clickable title that describe what the post is about – that’s the meta description.
Here’s a screenshot just so you’re clear:
Meta descriptions help people determine what a web page is all about. More pointedly, the meta description helps to persuade people to click-through on the link and visit the page – and that’s exactly why marketers need to pay attention to this little 160-character snippet.
Why Meta Descriptions Matter
According to SEO experts Yoast, “Search engines mostly say there is no direct ranking benefit from the meta description – they don’t use it in their ranking algorithm.”
However, be that as it may, there is a most definite and notable indirect ranking effect for the meta description. The whole purpose of the meta description is to get people to click-through to your website or blog, and your CTR is an official ranking factor.
Improving your meta descriptions will improve your CTR, and your improved CTR improves your search ranking. And so, yes, meta descriptions are important – especially as a lot of marketers still ignore them, which opens up a competitive window that you can exploit.
How To Lose Out With Your Meta Descriptions
I’m sure you can imagine what I’m going to say first…. The sure fire way to miss the opportunity to increase your CTR with meta descriptions is not to have one in the first place. If you don’t include a meta description on your page, then Google (et al.) will simply pull through a snippet from the first paragraph of your copy. It’s not ideal, and of course eliminates this added opportunity to pitch your content to prospective readers – a bad sales move by anyone’s standards.
Secondly, don’t use the meta description as a vessel to fill with as many repetitions of your keyword as possible. As Yoast explained, the meta description doesn’t rank in its own right, and your readers don’t like keyword stuffing – never have, never will.
How To Supercharge Your Meta Descriptions
From the negative to the positive – let’s now focus the remainder of our attentions on how to do meta descriptions right and give your CTRs the boost they deserve.
Be Clear, Concise, And Explain Exactly What Can Be Expected From The Article
If you care about your bounce rate, then you have to play fair with your audience. Your meta description must therefore make no false promises, and deliver exactly what it says on the tin. For instance, if I used the following meta description to promote this article, then there would be a lot of disappointed clickers who would be well within their rights to never return to this site again:
“This article will turn you into an SEO Jedi in 5 minutes. We’ve got 5 meta description hacks that are 100% guaranteed to increase your traffic 300% overnight.”
This sounds exciting, but it’s overselling the advice given here, and the claims are unfounded. People do this sort of thing, however, no doubt thinking that they’re clever. They’re not.
Play fair with users – the meta description should explain that the information within is what they’re looking for, or not. One blog can’t cover all bases, and so don’t try and trick users into thinking it does – just write more blogs so you’ve got every angle covered.
Turn Your Meta Description Into A CTA
Here he goes with the jargon again. CTA stands for call to action – and that’s exactly what your meta description should be. You need to convey a positive outcome for readers who click on your article, and using action-oriented language does the trick brilliantly.
So, think in terms, not just of describing your article, but also of encouragement. A good meta description for this very blog post might be:
“Discover how you can improve your search rankings with supercharged meta descriptions.”
“Learn all about meta descriptions, why they still matter, and how to use them to improve your SEO and supercharge your click-through rate.”
[Note: I personally am not in charge of the meta descriptions for the GetResponse blog – so there will probably be a third (hopefully even better) example of one when this blog gets published!!]
Keep Your Meta Description Under 160 Characters
There’s no actual limit on how many characters your meta description can or should be. But, Google does impose a limit on the amount of pixels allocated to meta descriptions on search pages. Therefore, as a pretty good rule of thumb, you should keep your meta descriptions below 160 characters so that it doesn’t get cut off.
Your CMS (content management system) might give you guidance as to the appropriate length of your meta description, or you might want to use a plugin for this purpose. Otherwise, a great, free online tool is the Snippet Optimizer from SEOmofo.
Include The Focus Keyword
I’m not backtracking here – keyword stuffing is never a good idea, but your meta description should nonetheless contain at least one (and at most two) occurrence(s) of the focus keyword of the article. Although search engines might not use meta descriptions specifically for rankings, keywords are still important. Users who are using keywords in their search queries will be encouraged by those same keywords appearing in bold type in meta descriptions beneath search results. It helps convince them that your article contains the information that they’re looking for.
What are your tips and tricks for crafting killer meta descriptions? Let us know in the comments below.