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The Secret Behind a Winning Meta Description

16 June 2015 by Genie Lab


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How healthy are your site’s meta descriptions? When was the last time you tweaked yours?

These little snippets can often be ignored by Ecommerce experts, but they can be invaluable for your website. Getting them right helps you bring in more traffic – while also ensuring that users are wiser about your brand.

But before we get into the ‘how’, let’s take a look at the ‘why’.

Why you need a strong meta description: It affects your search rankings

For years, digital experts have been of the opinion that meta descriptions had little effect on search rankings. Way back in 2007, Google said the following:

“…it’s worth noting that while accurate meta descriptions can improve click throughs, they won’t affect your ranking within search results.”

However, things have changed. While Google’s algorithms still don’t account for descriptions when ranking pages, they do now consider user behaviour in the process. Pages with higher click-through rates are more likely to enjoy stronger rankings – after all, a user clicking on a link is a clear indication to search engines that they’ve found what they’re looking for.

And when it comes to improving click through rates, there’s no more effective tool than the humble meta description. 

How to make your meta description sing:

Stick to the character count

Meta descriptions should be between 130-156 characters, including spaces. Anything less than that will struggle to say anything persuasive of note, while anything more will be cut off from search results pages and may look untrustworthy to Google.

Be snappy

Working within a tight character count? Well, you just need to make each character count.

Because you’re working with a limited amount there’s no time in the meta description for waffle, or to get in-depth about what you’re saying.

This suits readers, the majority of whom are used to skimming over websites in order to find the information they’re looking for. Keep editing those 156 characters so that you’re saying as much as possible, as simply as possible.

Spark curiosity

While also discussing the web page, your meta description also needs to be its best salesman.
You are, after all, competing against dozens of other businesses.

But sparking curiosity is an absolute must. Be aware of your target market and what’s important to them. Is it:

  • Learning more?
  • Impressing their boss? 
  • Saving money?
  • Making money? 
  • Helping others? 

Whatever it is, you need to let them know that you understand their goals and that your page is the solution to those desires.

Make them unique

As Google supremo Matt Cutts explains in this video, duplicated meta descriptions look spammy and could lead to penalties from search engines.

As Cutts mentions, you can avoid meta descriptions all together. But you’re better off writing a dedicated description that speaks to your target market. 

Include relevant keywords

Frustratingly, Google won’t always display the meta description you’ve written if it doesn’t feel it’s discussing what the searcher is looking for. Therefore, if your landing pages are targeting any specific keywords, it’s important to include them (naturally, of course) in your description so that users see your enticing, interesting copy.

These keywords will also be bolded in search results.

Avoid quotation marks

If your meta description includes quotation marks, Google will truncate it thereafter. So avoid quotations all together.

Include a call to action

Of course, you need to tell the user what you want them to do. A short, persuasive ‘click here’, ‘find out more’ or ‘read online today’ could compel readers to visit your site.

Adapt them

Once it’s published, don’t be afraid to edit your meta description for best results. Perhaps you’ve seen a competitor with a more engaging call to action? Maybe your page is ranking well for a specific keyword but that keyword returns an unengaging, Google-created description and would convert better with keyword emphasis? What’s more, it could be promising too much to users, leading to above-average bounce rates.

Whatever the symptom, the trick is to keep a constant eye on your metas to ensure they’re working for you.

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