The well-written meta description: It’s one of those oft-forgotten but incredibly important digital writing and SEO tools that can make your brand’s content look polished, professional and complete.  How can a single sentence hold so much power? Let’s discuss the meta description and how it can help you attract user click-throughs to your page.

What is a Meta Description?

A meta description is a sentence – no longer than 155 characters – that appears in search engine result pages (SERPs) under the title and URL of your web content. Take a look at how it appears in Google when you search for “Charles River Interactive”:

Charles River Interactive Meta Description Example

Why are Meta Descriptions Important?

It’s an over-used cliché to describe websites as the virtual front door to your company or organization. But if we piggyback on this metaphor, a well-written meta description is part of the on-page optimization package that forms your attractive façade or catchy signage.

Key points to keep in mind:

Meta descriptions improve site visits
The meta description tells users what content they will find on your page, and whether it is worth their time to click. Most importantly, they persuade users to choose your page over your SERP competitors.

Because many sites still neglect to write meta descriptions – or write sloppy, keyword-stuffed versions that make them look desperate for clicks – a strong, clean meta description can improve click-throughs to your copy.

Meta descriptions and social sharing
Many social sites – such as Facebook – also pull the meta description to auto-fill comment fields when users share your content. If you don’t have one, they will grab the first text they find.

Tips for Writing Meta Descriptions

  1. Size matters: Google will cut you at approximately 155 characters (letters, symbols, numbers, punctuation AND spaces). If you go over, you’ll have a dangling fragment that may not make sense.
  2. Be in control: If you don’t write a meta description, this space won’t go blank. Search engines will pick text – typically the first 160 characters that appear on your page – and it could appear as a mangled string of page title, section head and sentence fragment.
  3. Don’t take liberties: Accurately describe the content on your page. Don’t overstate or mislead users. This technique can actually negatively impact your bounce rate by leading to frustrating users.
  4. Use call to actions: It’s always a good approach to talk TO your audience, not about them. “Learn more about …” or “Find out why …” are examples of strong call-to-action language that invites users to click through.
  5. Keywords still count: They may not directly affect rankings, but incorporating relevant keywords is important for two reasons:

• They appear in bold in SERPs
• They communicate relevance of page to search query

Interested in learning more about trends and developments with Google? Read more from our blog, View from the Charles:

What You Need to Know about Google Symptom Search
Make Google Alerts Work for You
The 2nd Phase of Google’s “Mobilegeddon” Has Been Officially Released