How to Write a Meta Description in 5 Simple Steps
“You have to make the right choice. As long as you don’t choose, everything remains possible.”, says the young Nemo in Mr. Nobody, while standing in front of a candy store. Of course, he’s talking not only about choosing the right candy but about human faith as well. It’s not hard, however, to transfer the metaphor to our daily decision-making while browsing a search engine.
When looking something up on a search engine we face thousands of solutions to our single problem – as if the world has combined all of its forces to give us the one piece of information we need. All those options are there until we decide which one to click. As long as that one provides the necessary solution, all of the other results cease to exist for us. But how do we choose and what’s the foundation of our decision-making on search engines? What’s the right candy to pick?
Undoubtedly, SEO is the strongest weapon for each and every website. Ranking among the first results is the most certain way of generating traffic to your website. Nevertheless, visitors’ free will remains the leading factor of their choice. You need to win each visitor’s choice by providing a catchy “teaser” of your content in the SERP. That’s where the meta description comes in.
What is a meta description?
The meta description is an HTML tag summarizing your content in about 150 characters.
It’s generally the small snippet showing under your SEO title when a search is done. The tag looks like this:
<meta name=”description” content=”Insert your mind-blowing meta description here.”/>
While a step as small as getting your visitors from the search engine to your website might seem insignificant, it’s actually the turning point for your traffic. Even though Google has claimed multiple times that the meta description does not affect your SEO performance, its neglection could result in a self-sabotage of your optimization. The question is how to write a meta description that will convince people that yours is the content solving their problems.
A great tool you can use when it comes to your snippets is Google SERP Snippet Optimization. Just paste your title and meta description and find out how it’s going to be displayed on the SERP.
Now, let’s go through the following 5 steps that will prepare you for a brilliant meta description writing.
1. Start with the problem your page is solving
There’s always a reason behind a Google search – it could be a problem, a question or mere curiosity. No matter of the intention of the user, it’s essential that you are aware of the situations your content may come in handy.
First and foremost, think about the personality of the user making the search. Who is this person and does the information they’re looking for define them? After you’ve completed this part of the step, move further to the reason behind. Here are a couple of ideas:
- Start with a rhetoric question about their intentions the answer of which is undoubtedly Yes.
- Start with a statement summarizing the essence of the problem they’re facing.
A good example of a meta description beginning, while looking for “how to choose a major” is the following:
As you can see LiveCareer are aware of the main problem behind searching for university advice. Students find it hard to choose a major and they’re confused. They need a solution.
2. Introduce the solution
Now that the users are convinced that your page refers to their problem, offer your solution. Make sure to be as clear and eloquent as possible. After all, you need to summarize the whole benefit of your page in one single sentence. Be careful, however! Don’t give too much away! Introduce only the way you’re solving their problem, don’t present the full step-by-step solution. There are a couple of strategies that work here:
- Use numbers. Putting a limit on the steps to go through while solving the problem will make the task seem possible and easy to do. Lists are also the kings of SEO.
- Use adjectives. When talking about description, there is no better comrade than an adjective. Draw your solution through compelling description. Metaphors are not only allowed but highly recommended here, as well.
- List the benefits of your solution. Sum them up! Is it easy, cheap, quick or high quality? Bragging is no crime when doing SEO.
Nevertheless, a surprisingly short meta description containing only the solution can turn out to be one of the most attractive options.
A great example of that is what Harper’s Bazaar did with their Best Books 2017 list that I found after searching: “best books for 2017”.
This rather laconic meta description actually contains the full value of their article and it’s not at all necessary to indulge in a lengthy harangue.
3. Call-to-action (CTA)
Now that I know you refer to my problem and you offer a solution, what do I do? Even though you might think it’s obvious that the content lies behind the click, it’s still necessary to tell me what I can do.
Elementary, people respond best when there’s a call inviting them to undertake an action. As we’ve already mentioned humans’ free will is the foundation of their decision making. They need to feel that they’re in the center of the discourse and not a mere pawn. Talking directly to them satisfies that desire and demands a certain response. Feeling invited to act, few of us would resist the temptation. You can learn what exactly CTA is in detail and how it’s beneficial for your performance. By then try to incorporate some of these expressions into your daily web vocabulary: Try it today, Learn how, Find out more, Check it out, Discover, Read, etc.
4. Include the focus keyword
Now, I know we’ve said that the meta description has no effect on your general SEO and it’s still true. But it’s worth mentioning that your focus keyword plays an important role in it as well. When you include it in your meta description, the focus keyword will be in bold whenever people look for it online. Thus, making your meta description stand out just like in this result that shows up to my search of “learn to play the piano”:
5. Keep the length in mind
One of the most specific features of a meta description is its length. It needs to be short and organized as you don’t get a second chance for a first impression. Between 130 – 160 symbols is the perfect length as that’s what will be visible to your users on the SERP. If any longer, the text will be cut out with “…” which is rather annoying. As long as you cover the steps above, you can easily rely on the maxim “the shorter, the better”.
Bonus Tip: If you want to make your meta description stand out even more, try using different types of content, such as: pictures, ratings and dates. You can do that by adding the so called rich snippets to your WordPress website.
A meta description might seem as an insignificant part of your SEO adventure but as you saw, it shouldn’t be neglected. Knowing your audience’s troubles, being efficient and using the right language will undoubtedly boost your performance. After completing these steps you’ll be ready to create a full and irresistible appearance for your web pages on search engines. And keep in mind, once a candy is chosen, all of the others cease to exist.
About the Author
Copywriter by day and philosopher by night, I'm extremely interested in the contemporary digital narratives, web decision-making, and human behavior online. See all of my articles.