Improve your search engine rankings with simple meta descriptions

Hands raised

Meta descriptions are often overlooked when it comes to writing web pages. They no longer have a direct impact on the SEO of your pages, but they can still play an important role in helping your work your way up the search engine rankings.

Meta descriptions are the short bits of information that appear under the title in search engine results. They’re designed to give users a brief explanation of what to find on the page to if they were to click through.

Google no longer scans meta descriptions to determine whether to rank a page or not i.e. using SEO keywords or not in your description makes no difference.

But importantly, Google looks at how many people have clicked on your link – the Click-Through Rate (CTR) of that page – to determine its value. So the more people you get to click on it, the higher your CTR and the stronger your search engine ranking will be.

Remember that kid at school who wouldn’t just put their hand up? They had to bounce on their seat, prop their raised hand up with their other hand with a look of desperation on their face as they chanted, “pick me pick me pick me!”

They’d be  good at writing meta descriptions because they know that the secret to being picked first is to stand out.

So if you write meta descriptions that are clear, compelling and have an active voice, you’re shouting at your visitors “pick me!”

That’s not to say we should ignore your SEO keywords. After all, you SEO keywords should be the main subject of your content. And if your meta description has to explain your content, it makes sense that you’ll include your keywords in there anyway.

Writing good meta descriptions

Like any good piece of copy, the words you write in a meta description need to have a function. That is, they need to compel the searcher to click on your page instead of all the others.

And here’s how to do that…

1. Include your target keywords

As mentioned earlier, your keywords should be the main subject of the page. So by including them, you’re simply highlighting the main subject to potential visitors.

This help to reassure the potential visitor that your page is in fact about what they’re searching for.

2. Use imperative clauses

Using imperative clauses, or commands, within the description tells the reader what they should do next – they have a call to action.

To write an imperative clause you have to start with the verb – the command. ‘Find out more’. ‘Click to see how we can help’. ‘Sign up to our newsletter’.

There are some really creative ways you can come up with a good call to action, depending on the tone of your content. But if you don’t tell people what to do, you’re assuming they’ll figure it out. And assuming people do what you want is a big mistake.

3. Keep it under 156 words

Treat it like a Tweet – short and sweet.

Typically, Google displays meta descriptions that are no more than 156 characters long. Sometimes it will display more words. But if you stick to less than 156, not only is your message nice and concise, but you’re not likely to get cut-off.

4. Be clear

If your meta descriptions are misleading, intentional or not, you run the risk of losing domain authority.

You want your visitors to click on your page and find exactly what they thought they’d find before they clicked through.

Google uses ‘bounce rates’ as a factor when ranking sites. The bounce rates are the percentage of visitors that just visited that page and then `bounced` back off your site again.

If your meta descriptions say ‘Click now and instantly receive your FREE gift’ only to find on the page that, in fact, it’s not free, your visitors will leave. Your bounce rates will increase. Google will see that the page doesn’t quite live up to its expectations and therefor lets it drift into the dark depths of page 2 and beyond.

There are other things to consider when trying to reduce bounce rates, but poor meta descriptions will have a negative effect on them.

5. Use your voice

Tone of voice plays an important role in making the visitor connect with your brand. And its really important when writing online content to make the reader feel like they’re talking to a real person.

So use the voice of your brand to give the meta description some personality and stand out on the page. Make it feel like it was written by a person, not WordPress or another Content Management System.

6.Include the benefits

Customers need to know how you can benefit them, not what you do. So instead of describing the services you offer on that page, describe how clicking on that page can ‘save time’ or ‘reduce the costs of…’

It sounds simple, yet so many people forget about the barriers their products and services overcome and instead just describe who they are and what they do.

In short, pay attention to your meta descriptions and don’t let your Content Management System automatically using an excerpt from your page. Use them as a tool that gives people that extra nudge.

If you’ve found this article useful, or you know someone who needs to upgrade their meta descriptions, please share it. Thanks!