By: Cliff Lewis
It’s easy to think of metadata as some deeply encrypted line of code, tucked away in obscurity.
But the truth is, a meta description may be viewed more than any other copy on its corresponding page. Since these 155 characters can appear whenever your page is listed in search engine results, people who don’t even visit your site will still encounter your meta descriptions.
Here’s what I’m getting at: You need to write your meta descriptions as if people are actually going to read them.
A good way to start is by familiarizing yourself with some industry best practices. But while these guidelines are essential to getting on the right track, you can’t let them write your copy for you. The result would be mechanical, robotic and all-around un-click-worthy.
Even if you’re an SEO specialist or a programmer, every time you write meta description copy, you’re a writer. So you’ll have to let your right brain in on the effort.
Since I’ve heard that right brains shy away from long, numbered lists, I’ll spare you the “7 Steps to Better Meta Descriptions.” What follows are just a few observations that can help activate your writerly instincts. Think of them as holistic vitamins to boost your right brain meta description performance.
Vitamin A: It’s not all about the keywords
Your meta description content does not weigh heavily into your ranking for targeted terms. By the time anyone reads your meta description, the results are already in. So take a deep breath. Stretch out. And write what you really need to communicate.
Vitamin B: Search terms are still your friends
Don’t delete your keyword list just yet. Meta descriptions may not greatly impact your rank, but they are your last shot at connecting with a user’s query. Google bolds any text in your description that matches the user’s search terms, so tasteful use of high-priority terms will not only help you speak the reader’s language, but it will help you visually stand out on the page.
Vitamin C: Hit your main value proposition
It’s painfully easy to blend into a search results page. You have no visuals, no logo, no storefront—just 155 characters and a link. So here it’s as important as ever to differentiate the value of your product or service. What makes that widget better, stronger, more efficient? (If you have no easy way of figuring this out, then your content strategy is probably lacking.)
At the end of the day, this is only about a tweet’s worth of copywriting. And you will spend 80% of it hashing out the dry facts of the page and touching on high-priority search terms. But the remaining 20%—that subtle space between the stats—is your last shot at catching a click over all those other faceless competitors.