The Noisy Little Monkey Blog

What is a meta description?

Posted in SEO by Sallyanne on 17-Sep-2013 11:26:13

A meta description is the text that appears in a search engine result, detailing what the site has to offer. Although only a couple of lines long, these sentences are a key component in attracting the click when your page appears in search engine result pages (SERPs) and hence making people visit your website.

How to write great meta descriptions

When writing meta descriptions, think about the user’s intent. What is the person searching for and what do they want their search to answer? For example, I’m going to a wedding and want a new dress. In fact, I want a silver dress. So I head to Google and search for “silver dress”. Here is the top result:

House of Fraser - Meta Description

My search appears in the title and also in the meta description. Great news. I know this page contains silver dresses, and importantly so does Google.

But take a look at the rest of the meta text.

It is like the SEO consultants at House of Fraser have read my mind. I want to step out in style and I definitely want to be seen in this season’s fashions. Yet I haven’t quite decided the style of dress I want (hence my rather vague search term) and it appears my luck is in; House of Fraser have a selection of dress styles. I’m sold – I click the link and view their selection.

This is a great example of an effective meta description: it answers my search intent, giving me what I want, a choice of products and an incentive to click.

Yet Warehouse haven’t quite ticked all my boxes with their meta description:

Warehouse - Meta Description

I know they sell silver dresses, and if I was a Warehouse fan I may click just because I’m aware of the brand.

However the text does not grab my attention and there is no incentive to click: how will wearing one of these dresses make me feel? Where are the show stopping styles? A list of dresses, including one grey dress, does not match my user intent - and I scroll past looking for a description with a little more va va voom. Boo. Opportunity missed.

I don’t sell dresses. I sell cars

The same principle applies whatever services / goods you are offering. When writing your meta descriptions think about the following questions:

• What is the user looking for? (a new car, maybe a red Toyota)

• Why are they looking? (Looking for a new family car? Want to replace your current car?)

• How can you make them click? Use emotive and informative language (Red Toyota, low mileage, smooth runner, MOTed until August)

• What is the next step? (Take a look at your range of red Toyotas now. Click now to find your next family car)

Think of your characters

Now, your creative writing juices may be running but I’m about to throw a spanner in the works. Your meta description must be below 155 characters. This is the optimal length for search engines – anything longer and the text will become cut off. Replaced instead with… an ellipsis (see what I did there?!).

Start your description with the most important term if you can – remember humans are reading this text so make it sound ‘natural’. Do not mix up your messages – include one call to action and make it clear what the user will get if they click on to your website.

For more advice on how to write effective meta descriptions or to chat about your website’s ranking, give us a call on 0117 327 0171.

 

Tags: SEO