The term, “meta description” may seem foreign to some but we all see these descriptions each time we search for something online. The meta description can contain up to 320 characters and should be an interesting summary of what your website is all about. It shows up in the search results as those first few words/lines that explain the essence of your website or post.
How Meta Descriptions Work
Each time we type a search term in the browser, a number of results will come up. For each one, there’s a 320 character description of the site or page. People usually decide which site to click on based on what these meta descriptions say. That means it has to be snappy and fresh. The wording needs to grab your attention. It has to sound enticing. Think of it as a short, but powerful sales pitch. Potential customers are far more likely to visit a site that sounds unique, interesting or entertaining than one that sounds boring.
Though search engines make it clear that there’s no direct advantage from writing good meta descriptions, there is a very strong indirect benefit. If you’ve written a good meta description, then this will improve your click-through-rate (CTR). As visitors click-through to your site, the search engine uses that information as a way of determining that your site was aptly and well described. This will improve your position in the search results.
It is important to point out here that Google will not always show your unique meta description. Sometimes they generate their own description of your business based on factors like the search term and type of business it is. This is where keywords come into play. Most business owners now understand at least the basics of keywords and how they work. If your content is well-optimized, then it should reflect that by serving as a great meta description.
Google changes the way their search engine works at times and this can certainly throw a wrench in all your good plans. However, that should not stop business owners from doing sound keyword research and creating unique content with those keywords. It goes without saying that keyword stuffing is bad and should be avoided at all costs. Always observe the current standards for keyword density in a page of text, which usually runs around 2 to 2.5 percent.
Yoast Free or Premium?
Yoast offers a free and a premium SEO service. With the free service, you get one keyword for each page of content. The premium service allows five keywords for each page. The premium service also does a readability check using the Flesch Kincaid test which measures the grade level of your writing. Since the world wide web is filled with people from all backgrounds and educations, Flesch Kincaid usually recommends writing copy that would be easy reading for a third to fifth grader.
Use short concise sentences. Avoid big words that are not readily understood unless you are writing technical information for a specific audience, like IT experts. Try to use action verbs instead of passive verbs. Use subheadings and catchy taglines. Whatever you can do to make your site more attractive, unique and fun, will help. You can count on getting more traffic and higher conversion rates.
How to Use Yoast SEO to Write Meta Descriptions
If you don’t write a unique meta description, Yoast will produce one. Usually, it simply takes the first three lines of content on your page or post and uses that. If you’d like to edit that, then click on the “edit snippet” button. This opens the snippet editor. There are fields there to edit the SEO title, slug and meta description. As you type, your new meta description will show up. You can make changes until you feel it’s just right. The snippet editor has an orange bar at the bottom that will become green once you’ve typed enough information.
Many site owners use the first few lines of content on their page or post as the meta description. If your site has good, professionally written content on it, then there’s nothing wrong with that. However, if you feel you could improve the text, then, by all means, do so. If you can get the hang of this and really write powerful meta descriptions, it can greatly improve your click-through rates.
How to Write a Superb Meta Description
Once you’ve decided that this is something worthwhile that could improve your bottom line, it’s important to put your best foot forward. In order to write effective meta descriptions, you may need the help of a good copywriter. Copywriting is all about utilizing words to persuade searchers to click on your page. With only 320 characters or about two to three lines of text, it’s important to make every word count. Below are two writing examples to show you the difference between professionally written text and that of an amateur.
Good Meta Description:
Discover the innovative world of Apple and shop everything iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Mac, and AppleTV, plus explore accessories, entertainment, and expert device support.
The above meta description from Apple does contain some good keywords but it doesn’t feel awkward or forced. It’s informative. It’s also important to note that this meta description was written using the older rules where 155 characters were the rule. Today, we’re seeing longer snippets that contain more information to help searchers decide what to click on.
Get some good donuts and cakes at Mary’s Bakery located in downtown Minneapolis. We cater and deliver. Our baked goods are tasty and made with quality ingredients.
Though the above meta description does contain some valuable information, it’s boring. The shop owner wastes valuable space here to tell consumers where they’re located. This is something that many searchers will not care about in their initial search. Use this space to talk about delicious pastries, cakes, and donuts. Talk about your award-winning cupcakes with buttercream icing. This is how you get people to visit your site and look around.
Be sure that your meta description accurately describes your page or post. Yes, the wording can be flowery, powerful, strangely attractive, etc. But it should also be truthful. If you make promises you can’t keep, then searchers will quickly hit the “back” button. This can cause your site to fall in the search listings.
As mentioned above, avoid keyword stuffing. Just about all web visitors today understand what keyword stuffing is and most don’t like it. The reason? Keyword stuffing makes a section of text read awkwardly. It is typically not well-written content and it doesn’t make sense to your human visitors. Remember to write your meta description for humans, not for search engines.
Instead, focus on writing interesting descriptions and unique content for your human visitors. In the end, search engines will not be purchasing your products and services. Humans will, so cater to their needs, wants, desires, whims—and you’ll be rewarded with higher click-through rates and stronger sales.
Brian Gray, MCP, is the President at Kraft Technology Group, LLC (KTG), an affiliate of KraftCPAs PLLC. Within his role, Brian is responsible for all aspects of service delivery to our clients. Brian has a decade of experience working for managed service providers. He has worked with clients in a variety of industries, including financial services, accounting, legal, healthcare, manufacturing, and retail.