The oldest content writing lesson in the book: Don’t ruin a great article by sticking it under a boring headline. The content itself may be epically great, but if the headline is whack then nobody’s ever going to read it – so what’s the point?
And an important corollary: After you hone the headline, spend some time developing a great meta description. It’s almost as important, and for basically the same reason.
What makes meta descriptions important is that they’re basically used as content summaries on Google search results pages. A search engine user will probably check your title first, but the next thing they’ll see will be the meta description – and if it isn’t both an accurate and engaging description of the content, you’re probably not going to get the click that you want.
And yet, it’s remarkable how many content writers treat meta descriptions like an afterthought. It’s amazing how much great content goes overlooked just because nobody took the time to pen a decent summary.
Start improving your descriptions today by avoiding some of these common pitfalls:
Using Your Space Poorly
What should your meta description word count be? It’s something of a moving target, but generally speaking you want to keep it to 150 characters or less; anything more and Google may clip it. What happens far too often is that the writer is so intent on keeping things brief that he or she wastes a lot of space; if you write a 40-character meta description, you’re throwing away a lot of perfectly useful online real estate. There’s really no reason why a meta description should ever come in under 130 words.
Being Too Clever
It’s fine to have a hook, or to take an unconventional approach to your content description – but remember the point of all this: To provide a meaningful and helpful summary of what your article is about. Google does not take kindly to meta descriptions that are misleading, and for that matter your readers won’t like the bait-and-switch move either. Make sure that you are precise in summarizing your content.
Being Too Passive
The best meta descriptions are basically calls to action. The action, of course, is to click the link and read the article. If your summary lacks a compelling verb, rethink it.
A meta description without a keyword is wasted, but a meta description that’s just keywords is probably going to be either nonsensical or simply boring. Remember that you need to appeal to search engines, but not at the expense of human readership.
Presenting No Immediate Value
Bottom line: Readers want to know what’s in it for them. Make it clear that your content has answers and solutions – not just dry facts or opinions.
Don’t ruin perfectly good content with a lame meta description – and don’t let a simple mistake drag your meta descriptions down.