What is a Meta Description?
The meta description is a tag written in HTML and is used to describe the content of a web page. This description will appear along with the title and URL of the page as they appear on the search engine results. For the meta description to be fully visible in the Google search results, its length should not exceed 140 to 10 characters. Creating meta descriptions is one of the features offered in a SEO packages.
Examples of a Meta Description
A good meta description for our blog post here could be:
“To ensure your full message is displayed by Google, keep your meta description below 140 –160 characters. Make sure you include the keywords!”
This is what a meta description will look like on the Google SERPs (Search Engine Results Page):
And, here is an example of how that description will look in code:
Why are Meta Descriptions Important?
Meta descriptions will appear alongside your title and URL on the results page. Therefore, they can have a positive or negative impact on your clickthrough rate.
The meta description also provides a considerable amount of real estate — a full two lines instead of a single line as available in the URL. With this in mind, make sure you use the meta description to send a strong message to searchers and potential clients.
How to Write Meta Descriptions Effectively
The SERPs click-through rate is a major factor in your website’s ranking. Therefore, your meta descriptions should be written out with the single goal of increasing your click-through rate.
This is easier than you’d think. Consider the SERPs like a conventional ad in a magazine or a newspaper. Traditional advertising used headlines and engaging taglines to entice the reader to take a certain action, like make a phone call, make a purchase, book an appointment, etc.
Your page title can be considered your headline in the SERPs, your meta description is the tagline and the URL will be your address. Because the meta tag functions as the “micro-pitch" for the web page, it should use an active language that will also encourage your readers to take action.
Tip #1: Include Your Unique Selling Point
Make sure you have included a description of your website's unique selling point. Ask yourself: What will our visitors find there that they can’t find anywhere else?
Don’t shy away from the emotional connection. Emotional advertising has found considerable success as it connects to people in a very real way.
Let's look at an example:
In this impressive description included in a SERP, visitors can see that this company repairs and services air conditioning — a very important service for those living in South Florida. But even more than this, they work to “increase the comfort of your home and provide reliable advice and expert services when they are needed most.”
If your AC was down in the middle of a hot and humid Florida summer, who would you call?
The Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of Glasgow has categorized human emotion into the following categories:
The company in question used emotions in the right way when looking to attract its customers.
Tip #2: Appeal to an Emotion in 1-2 Sentences
You will not have much room to make your message so it pays to be concise. 1-2 sentences are about all you will get for 160 characters. Make sure you include a good reason for your audience to visit the home page, an emotional trigger, and a clear call to action — you can even sweeten the deal with a specific benefit.
But, stay within the character limit. Google will truncate anything that exceeds this number and no one will be able to enjoy your entire message.