If you’ve searched online, you’ve no doubt encountered a meta description or three. In essence, the meta descriptor is a snippet of text that describes and summarizes the content of a web page. This description is not normally visible until you input a search query on a search engine like Google. At that point, the search engine results page (SERP) lists various results, complete with their titles, URLs/breadcrumb paths, and meta descriptions.
For example, if you were to search for the term ‘camping stove’ using Google, you’d see this result on the SERP:
In this entry, the larger blue text is called the title tag. It is followed by the site’s URL, and then the 160-character long meta descriptor.
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What does a meta description do?
A meta description does not improve your web page’s SEO directly because search engines don’t input it into their ranking algorithms. However, a well-written meta description can help improve your web page’s click-through rate, or CTR. CTRs are derived from several sources, including search engine traffic, social media mentions, and social bookmarks.
More to the point, these CTRs are used by search engines such as Google to measure how well a page addresses a search query.
So, the more relevant and interesting your pages’ meta descriptions are, the more likely you’ll be to improve the ranking of those pages through indirect means (i.e., traffic and clicks).
Incidentally, search engines automatically create meta descriptors for web pages, usually by displaying the first one or two sentences of that page in the SERP. While this is a good start, it may not adequately address the true purpose of that page.
How to create a good meta description
The best meta descriptions not only encompass keywords that are relevant to the web page being described, they also include a call-to-action for the viewer. Here’s one such example:
In this case, the CTA is asking the reader to “Shop online today!”
A good meta description can also spark curiosity in the reader, making her want to click on the link to learn more. For example, this meta description cuts off just as it begins to describe its ‘Keeps You Dry…Guaranteed” technology. Someone who is looking for a waterproof tent would probably want to find out more information about such a tent.
Overall, but especially when describing products, you are best off focusing on the benefits of those products- and dangling extra information just beyond the reaches of the meta description.
Where to see and add the meta description
If you’re writing a blog post or product description in WordPress for eventual publication on a web page, you won’t immediately see your meta description or know where it “lives.” Luckily, there are a number of plugins and third party tools that help you visualize your page’s meta description.
All in One SEO Pack– This plugin naturally divides up your content into a title, description, and keywords. The description, in this case, is the meta description.
Yoast SEO– This plugin comes in both free and paid versions and offers views of the meta description on both regular (desktop/laptop) and mobile platforms.
If you just want to see how any web page’s meta description would look like, here are some general visualization tools:
ToTheWeb -This online tool has two useful features. The first feature enables you to type in your page’s URL and see how this page would appear in a SERP. The second feature is the tool’s meta descriptor editor, enabling you to input and edit your page’s meta description.
Portent– If you just need to view your page in SERP format and don’t need a lot of fancy extras, Portent will quickly generate this view after you input your title, meta, URL, and keywords.
5 tips for writing effective meta descriptions
At just 160 characters, the meta description is not the easiest web page feature to produce. How can you ensure that your meta descriptions actually improve CTR?
They answer a question. What is your web page about? Also, if you could describe your web page using just one or two sentences, what would you say?
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They are relevant. What keywords would a user input to find your web pages? Whatever those keywords might be, they should be included in your meta description (and title tag too).
They are to the point. When you have just 160 characters to work with, you should not be using any flowery or fluff language in your meta descriptor. Every word should be there for a reason. Extraneous words and extensive introductions should be eliminated.
They use CTAs. Although it’s not always feasible, you should try incorporating CTAs in your meta descriptions. Common CTAs include ‘Buy Now,’ ‘Learn More,’ and ‘Shop Our Store.’
They are assertive and active. Use an active and positive voice for your meta descriptions. A statement like “You’ll find the best styles here” is preferred to “There are different styles available.”
The meta description is your friend in sales
Once you become adept at writing meta descriptions, you’ll find that they can really aid in your efforts to increase website traffic and user interest. This will inevitably improve your search engine rank, which should ultimately improve your product sales and conversions.