In this guide, we'll explain the importance of writing good meta descriptions and how they can significantly improve your Google rankings and increase overall traffic.
Put simply, a meta description is a small paragraph of text used as the caption/snippet for an article shown on the search engine results page (SERP).
Why are they Important?
Sample Meta Desc. from our SEO Guide
Meta Descriptions are one of the easiest and most important ways to increase organic traffic to your story.
A well-written meta description can both raise your rankings on search engines and also entice readers to click on your story instead of the competing stories on the SERP.
When your story is on the first page of Google, optimizing the meta description alone can lead to higher click-through-rates (CTR) and more traffic.
A study done by Moz found that simply optimizing your meta description can increase CTR by 4.5%:
That number may not seem high, but if your article targets a keyword that is searched for 10,000+ times a month, you can get an amazing return for something that takes just a few minutes of your time.
There are tons of guides on writing meta descriptions out there. Likewise, there are many different strategies you can pursue based on the different niches you're writing for.
However, based on my experience, these are three essential (likely universal) tips to write effective meta descriptions.
1. Include Your Target Keyword
Let's start with the most obvious. You need your exact (or close to exact) keyword visible within the meta description. I say visible because after a certain amount of characters, part of your text might be cut off and not visible to users on the SERP.
Yoast SEO recommends a meta description length of anywhere between 155-160 characters.
So make sure your keyword is within that character range and preferably closer to the front of the meta desc.
The simplest mistake I used to make (and see others constantly make) is to tease what the article is about without giving any information. This is a really easy trap to fall into because it's also a simple way to throw your target keyword in there.
For example, the meta description for this article is NOT:
Want to learn how to write a good meta description? Well, you've come to the right place. This guide will tell you everything you need to know.
Why is this bad? Well, this snippet gives the user the exact same info they learned from reading the title.
You've essentially given them a longer version of your title. Instead of giving people a teaser, give them a taste of the real information and solid facts you'll be presenting in your article.
This leads us to tip number 3.
Earlier in 2020, I took a MOZ course on SEO. Within it was a very interesting nugget about how they improved click-through-rates (CTR) by 4.5% solely by following this meta description strategy.
This is the same image shown earlier in this article. You'll notice that they changed the title of the article into a question. Also, in the "After" version of the meta description, they answered the question posed in the title directly.
Why is this so effective?
Because the user knows exactly what they're getting. They wanted to learn about "search visibility" and just by reading the meta description, they already have an answer to their question.
It also shows that you have knowledge on the topic. Take a look at the "Before" version of the meta desc. None of that text shows you actually know what you're talking about. It's just an empty teaser. By answering the user's query immediately, you gain credibility.
Lastly, some people might think "well if we answer the user's query in the meta desc. there is no reason for them to click on our article." WRONG. Unless the user is looking for a dictionary definition of a word, usually a 1-sentence answer isn't going to satisfy their needs.
It might be slightly counter-intuitive, but giving people the information they want directly on the SERP entices them to click on your content more, rather than less.
You can apply this technique to any query; your title doesn't have to be a question. All you need to know is what your users are looking for.
A simple example is a listicle. Let's say we're writing a listicle titled "5 Best Tech Blogs Everyone Should Subscribe to".
What is your user interested in if they're clicking this article? The names of the five best tech blogs, of course!
So your meta description should have some of those names and your keyword "best tech blogs".
Here is an example of a decent meta description for that article (sorry for the shameless plug):
Hacker Noon, TechCrunch, and Wired are some of the best tech blogs with news and guides on all the latest technology trends.
That was just a quick example and it wasn't my best work, but it ticks all the boxes: target keyword, real information, and a direct answer to the query.
I hope this short guide on writing effective meta descriptions helps you boost your Google rankings and brings more readers to your wonderful stories.