Gabka Koscova
updated

How Not to Write a Meta Description

Writing a meta description is often a neglected part of technical SEO. However, writing “something” is typically good enough for most website owners and marketers. A meta description is not a ranking signal, and keyword stuffing within the body of the content doesn’t help with ranking higher in search engines anymore.

That is why it is somewhat understandable why marketers just don’t think that spending time on writing a good meta description is still worth the trouble.

However, the meta description has a big influence on your potential customers because they show up in the search engine page results under the link.

If you want your descriptions to appeal to your customers so they will click on your site, you should check out the following tips on how to write the best meta descriptions. In this breakdown, I'll help teach you how to write a meta description and what not to do when writing one.

1. Don’t Focus on the Number of Characters

It is common knowledge to keep your meta description length under a certain amount of characters. SEO specialists used to recommend to keep it around 150-160 characters. But there was an update from Google in December 2017, which caused the length of meta description to increase. However, we're now back into the 150-160 character range.

That is actually correct information, but I wouldn’t necessarily always stick to the characters in every situation. But the real length of a meta description for a desktop computer is about 158 characters or 920 pixels. The meta description length for mobile devices is about 120 characters or 680 pixels.

Luckily, there are many tools that will show you a preview of your meta description copy. I personally use this checker, which shows me the length, both in characters and pixels. Therefore, it is easy for me to write my text without focusing only on the number of characters. 

Here's an example of how to write a meta description that fits the pixel recommendation but not the character limit:

I wouldn't suggest writing what you see above, but when you're learning how to write a meta description, it's important to see how the restrictions can be adjusted based on what you're writing. 

2. Don’t Duplicate Your Meta Description

Even though the duplicate description doesn't mean a quality problem with your website, I would rather keep it empty. In that case, Google will generate it automatically from the page content. In the end, the generated meta description can look much better than the description which provides the same information every time to your potential customers.

If you are not able to write a unique meta description for every page on your site, which is perfectly normal, you don’t have to panic. Focus on the most important pages like the homepage, main category pages, and the pages that bring you the most traffic.

If you have thousands or even millions of pages on your site, you can also create a template and generate new meta descriptions, while only changing the keywords, like in the examples below.

3. Don’t Forget Keywords in Your Copy

Be sure to use the right keywords in your meta description that is the most relevant to your page content. I am sure that many people admire creativity, but in this case, you should think about the keywords that your customer will be looking for.

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If not, a search engine crawls the very first sentence that consists of relevant keywords and shows it in the search results. Like in this case, where I was searching for travel gifts, I found this description that didn’t make any sense.

I was curious about an original meta description, so I looked for it:

I liked the creativity of the copy, but unfortunately, the missing keywords made it so that I didn’t see this description, but instead, I saw the irrelevant one.

4. Don’t Write Boring Descriptions

Large selection of clothes, shoes and design accessories. Sound familiar? Or even boring?

Writing the meta description is one of the few ways to show creativity in on-page SEO. Here you have the chance to stand out in the front of your audience. Take a look at these tips on how to do that:

1. Be specific in what you are offering. Trying to describe your landing page in a few characters is difficult, but if you are specific enough, or even when you write a few examples, you can’t go wrong with it. I like this description from Asos because I can really imagine what I will see after clicking on this result.

2. Make your customers curious. Don’t put all of your cards on the table right away, but keep something up your sleeves. Sometimes just the simple use of question marks or an unfinished sentence can make your customers really want to click on it. This one makes me curious, but I would reduce those questions a little bit.

3. Use symbols or numbers. Different characters other than letters can really get people’s attention. You can use a price or the number of products in your meta description. This one got my attention because it is not typical to see these types of symbols in usual search results.

4. Include a call-to-action. This might only be my subjective opinion, but I wouldn’t add a very directive call to action like “Read more!” or “Buy now!” to the meta description. It might just be too aggressive for the customers. Instead, I would include a call to action in the copy, like in the example below. I like the word “Discover” at the beginning of a nice sentence, rather than at the end of the copy as “Discover now!”.

5. Talk about them, not about you. This is one of the most important copywriting rules, and you shouldn’t forget about it, even when writing short copy like the meta description. No one is curious about how great you think you are; everybody wants to know what is in it for them.

The meta description below is a great example of both good and bad copy at the same time. I like the beginning of it because I want to satisfy my cravings. However, I am kind of confused about their statement at the end of the copy because to me, it seems like bragging.

5. Don’t Be Lazy | Set Up Structured Data

Even though this one is not particularly connected to the copy, it will help you stand out with your meta description in SERPs.

If you have reviews on your website or you can provide recipes, you shouldn't be ignoring structured data in any case.

You can also have your logo or company information in SERPs, making your company more attractive, especially when somebody is looking for your brand.

You can set up even the most basic structured data, like breadcrumbs.

Around 57% of the big companies don't have structured data set up for their pages. This is your chance to stand out more than your competitors.

Don't be lazy and just start with it now. It is much easier than how it might appear at first sight. Google guidelines will help you with all the basics!

Do you have other tips or proven recommendations on how to write meta descriptions?

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