What Are Meta Descriptions?


What Are Meta Descriptions?

You know that little blurb at the bottom of the link on Google that kind of tells you the answer when you hastily searched for “weird growth on big toe”? That’s a meta description. They’re often used to preview text from the content when sharing to social media, but we here at Strathcom Media think it’s so much more than that. Even though Google recommends you to only write up to 155 characters, we’re going to tell you how you can make the most out of this small box of information. Read on to learn more about the importance of optimizing your meta descriptions for better visibility on a search engine results page (SERP).

Why Are Meta Descriptions Important?

Imagine you’re at a bookstore and you’re unsure about what book to buy. You trudge through hundreds of books because nothing has piqued your interest, after looking at each cover or reading every heart-wrenchingly boring synopsis on the back. Every horror/mystery novel has the same shadowy cabin in the front, and every actor’s memoir vaguely alludes to their past substance abuse on the back  (spoiler alert: they did drugs in the 90s. A lot of drugs). But then, you stumble across this beautiful hardcover novel in the lowest corner of the shelf. It’s pitch black, with only the title, the author’s name, and a sharp razor blade on the front. What does it all mean? You read the back cover. An eerie small town? Creepy mother and sister relations? MURDER? You’d be foolish to leave Chapters without it.

If title tags are your book cover, then meta descriptions are the gripping, heart-rate elevating synopsis on the back. Meta descriptions should have you running to the cashier and slamming that book on to the till, so you can go home and spend your entire long weekend reading until your sofa retains a permanent, concave butt imprint on the cushion. Even though Google doesn’t use them to directly determine search ranking position, meta descriptions still play a huge role in your overall user experience. Meta descriptions gives your users cause to click on your website’s link because they provide relevant information for the question they need answered.

Numerous links will appear on the SERP when a user hits ‘search’, so you have to ensure you’re doing your best to stand out above the rest. How so? We compiled a list of some techniques and guidelines to help you optimize your meta descriptions for better click-through-rates on your website, which in turn, helps you rank higher in SERPs.

How To Optimize Your Meta Descriptions

  • Length: Metas that exceed the 155-character limit become shrouded in the dreaded ellipses and short ones don’t offer enough information. Writing concise copy within each meta description and balancing the length is key to drawing more users.
  • Take Action: Create urgency with your metas by giving users a reason to click on your link. You could tell them to “Click and learn more, or you could turn up the heat and tell them “You’d be a fool not to read this” to really drive home what you’re selling or sharing information on.
  • Formatting: Make sure to use focus keywords, proper punctuation, and active verbs when writing meta descriptions to ensure users know the copy on the page is just as high-quality.
  • Unique descriptions: Remember what we said about standing out? Writing compelling copy for your meta descriptions ensures users will click on your link. We can’t stress this part enough because you’ll be competing with several links on the first pages and you may not even rank first, so writing a description that grabs your users’ attention will make them want to click on your site.

A Fun Exercise For Writing Concise Metas

Our content team put together a fun writing exercise for you to learn how you can write short and concise meta descriptions for your pages. Using an SEO preview tool, such as Yoast SEO, Portent.com, or SEO Mofo, write a summary for any work of fiction—whether it’d be a movie, television series, or book—and condense it within 155 characters for everyone to guess the title. The goal of this exercise is to sharpen your editing skills so you can fit as much relevant information as possible within the character limit.

A few rules:

  • No pronouns, such as character, actor, or author names are allowed in the description
  • Must have between 100-155 characters
  • You can use the meta title to give everyone a hint as to what it is you summarized, followed by the medium you’re trying to guess (i.e. The One With The Spaceships | Movie)

Here’s some examples the content team came up with. Can you try and guess what they are?

The answer is Ocean’s 11! The movie 21 where Kevin Spacey leads a group of card counters in Vegas and Laurence Fishburne tries to stop them came in a close second. Here’s another example, but this one’s trickier.

Give up? It’s the Disney film, Zootopia! That one’s a bit of a head-scratcher, but it’s not wrong.

These are just a few tips and reasons why optimizing your meta titles are important for your SERP rankings and click-through-rate. For the best meta titles and descriptions in the game, you already know Strathcom’s content strategy team has this thing on lock.

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