The Ins and Outs of Writing Meta Descriptions for SEO

The art of writing meta descriptions, which are short summaries of a web page’s content, has gotten extremely complicated these days. Meta descriptions are one of the factors that are often targeted with SEO because they are the snippet that usually shows in the SERP when the search query keywords match the keywords in the meta description.

Of course, Google constantly switches the way search results are displayed so that no SEO can ever fully defeat its algorithms. The current situation is a complex one. With some trial testing, we can find that the search engine returns us meta descriptions of a seriously wide range.

There are the extremely short ones that have a single-digit word count, to ones with full sentences, many of which trail off mid-sentence and end with ellipses. The average stands somewhere between 100 to 200 characters – according to Yoast and Moz, a good number is 155.

meta descriptions by character length

Source: Moz (https://moz.com/blog/how-to-write-meta-descriptions-in-a-changing-world)

It’s important to note, however, that this character limit is arbitrary because Google sees fonts by their proportionate size rather than fixed ones.

Questions About Metas

So, what would be the appropriate length to write now? What happens if Google starts cutting off the ends of our meta description again, removing important parts that we really want our potential website viewers to see?

We know that meta descriptions are really important to induce clicks – they are like the movie trailers of the search engine world. The style in which trailers are made are always changing but the essence remains the same: capturing attention in the shortest time and the strongest way.

What Can You Do To Optimize?

Keep Structures Flexible

If you’re worried about important text being cut off, the simple and obvious solution is to put the most important, must-read text right at the top. This style of writing has long been established by journalists as an effective one. The term for it in the newsroom is the inverted pyramid.

Articles about breaking news are written this way for maximum impact. You are immediately drawn in by the punchy first paragraph that delivers you all the information, condensed neatly into one or two sentences. The other paragraphs contained information of decreasing importance, as a reporter never knows when the editor will cut off their work. This definitely strikes a chord with the SEO world, where we try to beat our big bad boss Google by starting our meta descriptions strong.

A general guideline could be trying to split your meta description into half essential, half additional. In other words, put the more important, click bait stuff in front and the supporting details behind.
Also it’s good practice to capitalize the first letter of every word to make it stand out a bit from the other search results.

Ellipses Are Okay

The easiest, most natural way to write a meta description is to just go with the flow and forget character counts. Use your intuition and knowledge of the topic to write something that reads easily to the reader – if you can capture them from the start, an abrupt end to the meta description by an ellipsis will only entice them to click to read on.

Keep Meta Descriptions Unique

Don’t use the same meta description for any two pages. This can harm the ranking of both pages. If there really is a need for two pages to have the same meta description, leave one empty and let Google use the keywords to extract an excerpt from the page with the meta description to apply to the one without.

Get a Rich Snippet Boost

In a results page full of snippets, rich snippets are easily much more identifiable and eye-catching. They contain additional information apart from the

meta description that could really add to a reader’s understanding and get their attention.

meta description examples

Source: Search Engine Land (https://searchengineland.com/4-things-didnt-know-rich-snippets-253231)

There’s a slight catch here, though. Rich snippets have to be written in code and may need a little more time to prepare, but if you’re looking for a long-term strategy this could be a one worth spending time on.

Make it Stand Out

Making your meta description stand out is the key to getting searchers to click on your site over a competitor. But how do you do it? One good way is to capitalize the first letter of every word. This is a technique that is commonly used with Google adwords and works just as well for SEO.  In fact when we target the keyword “SEO Singapore” we use this exact technique. Another thing you want to do is entice people to click using “click bait”. The best way to do this is to intentionally cutoff the description and leave it with a cliffhanger.

An example for the keyword “how to write a meta description” would be something like this.

“Are You Wondering How To Effectively Write A Good Meta Description But Don’t Know Where To Start? Read Our Guide To Find Out The Common Pitfalls To Avoid…”

This leaves them wondering about the pitfalls to avoid and makes it more likely they will click.

Can you skip meta descriptions?

Meta descriptions are not necessary all the time. Websites without these can do fairly well as Google will just do the sorting for you, granted you have enough content and reputation. Wikipedia is the finest example of this, perhaps because they contain so many pages that Google can select a snippet from any page that contains the keywords searched for.

Having said that, we still highly recommend taking advantage of a well written meta description to draw clicks from the SERP.

What it Boils Down To

At the end of the day, ask yourself if all this trouble is really necessary. A 155-character guideline isn’t too difficult to stick to, but if changing all your existing pages’ meta descriptions is too troublesome, take some comfort in the fact that for now, this method works for Google. Pick your strategy for your different pages to cater to their importance – restructure meta descriptions for pages that are too long and save yourself the effort for the rest.