Last Updated on July 27, 2020 by Michael Brockbank
Writing meta descriptions is a bit of an art form. They’re not overly difficult, but it does take a bit of finesse to make them effective. Whether you’re blogging or writing for clients, knowing how meta descriptions work makes your content more valuable.
It all comes down to creating a few lines of text that get people to click on the article.
Today, I’ll show you how to structure these to improve click-through rates as well as structuring them for content mills clients.
What is a Meta Description?
A meta description is a bit of text that shows up during search results. Of course, this also depends on the query. However, they show up more often than not when you’re trying to rank for a certain keyword or phrase.
For example, let’s say that I’m writing a review about blender bottles and how they work. My keyword is, “blender bottle.” The meta description would look something like:
In this example, I am doing two things…focusing on the keyword and giving a call-to-action. So, if someone was to search for the keyword, they would see that text appear on the results page.
Writing Meta Descriptions
You don’t have to be a blogging guru or hot-shot website developer to create a winning meta description. In the end, it all comes down to simply knowing your audience and getting them to click the link.
In fact, it’s commonplace for bloggers and site owners to periodically change up the meta description. Think of it as trial and error while coming up with the most effective opener during search.
So, let’s dive into properly setting up meta descriptions.
Knowing the Proper Length
Currently, the best length for a meta description is between 155 and 160 characters. That’s because Google will truncate the sentences if they go further than that. Which is why you’ll often see the ellipses in search results.
This means you’ll need to condense the information of what the article will share with searchers within two or three short sentences.
If you’re unsure how to calculate character lengths, and you don’t have Yoast SEO installed in WordPress, many word processing apps will show you. For instance, LibreOffice shows the number of words and characters on the bottom of the editor.
HTML for Meta Descriptions
OK, so what about the proper set up for the HTML coding of meta descriptions? It looks something like this:
The “meta name” will always be “description.” This is telling search engine bots that the text within this code is the description of the article. The only element that changes in this section is the 155 to 160-word text you create.
In reality, you can simply copy and paste the example above and just change the content portion to fit your needs.
Include the Keyword or Phrase
When trying to rank for certain keywords, you need to include them in the meta description. Now, search engines admit that this plays no part in ranking on the results page. However, they do affect click-through rates.
And that is something search engines do take into account when ranking your articles.
So, if I was creating an article about the best places to buy “dodge daytona parts,” the meta would look like this:
Avoid a Passive Tone
An active tone engages the reader. It is more motivational and often inspires action while addressing the person directly. As a result, active tone usually gets a better response when you’re writing any type of content.
Now, writing in an active tone is an article of its own. But the gist of it is to make the content present or future tense-heavy. It also includes actionable context in the piece.
This example is telling the reader the article includes quick and easy tips while cooking for a family. It’s actionable content people will click in search.
Make it Relevant to the Article
Perhaps one of the more important aspects of meta descriptions is making sure it’s relevant to the content. If you’re telling people you have tips in your meta description, you better have the best tips you can find in the article.
This is because a disconnect between the description and the content will cause visitors to “bounce.” In other words, they will quickly leave the article and go back to search.
The higher your bounce rate, the worse you’ll appear in Google search results over time. And from a freelance writer’s perspective, it makes the client look bad and he or she will send you less work.
On a side note, you also want to make sure the content gets into the topic as quickly as possible. Don’t have a super long intro before the actual meat of your article.
Know Search Intent
And lastly, but ultra-important, is knowing the search intent of whom you’re trying to engage. This is perhaps one of the more difficult aspects of writing a proper meta description.
The term, “search intent” refers to knowing how people are looking for and reading the material.
In an example above, I showed how an article’s description breaks down the best places to buy cheap car parts. The intent is to focus on people working on automobiles and need affordable parts.
It’s not all about saturating your texts with keywords and phrases. Quality content focuses more on what a specific person is searching.
Meta Descriptions in Content Mills
What about creating meta descriptions for clients in content mills? Sometimes, you’ll come across clients in sites like Textbroker who request a description to go along with the content.
In most instances, the client wants the actual HTML format above. In which case, you just simply create the HTML coding elements while adding the text.
However, some clients may simply want you to label it, “Meta Description:” and then type the text. In fact, I’ve done quite a few of these cases when working with Textbroker.
If you’re ever in any doubt, always check with the client. He or she might want you to set it up a specific way.
Usually, I’ll err on the side of using the actual HTML. More of than not, this is the preferred method for my clients.
Meta Descriptions Are Important!
While they may not be a part of Google’s ranking factors, meta descriptions are vastly important for getting people to click in search results. Regardless if you’re writing them for yourself or a client, you need to get a handle of how to make them.
From a client’s perspective, it could mean the difference between sending work to one author or another. If you’re blogging for yourself, it’ll contribute to click-through rates and engagement.
Spend some time looking at how these pieces of text are created by searching for something yourself. You can get quite a few good ideas from using Google.