How to Write Meta Descriptions: The SUSO Method

SUSO 13 February 2023

Find out what meta descriptions and how you can craft compelling descriptions to compel users to click through to your page over your competitors.

Author: Rafal Woszczak, Mid SEO Specialist

Rafal Woszczak

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The meta description is an introduction and shortcut to what your page is about and what content users can expect to find on there. A proper meta description that includes keywords, information related to search intent, and other elements eager to click the link can make more users visit your site.

In this article, we will show you how to craft the best meta descriptions for your web pages.

What is a Meta Description?

A meta description is an HTML attribute found in the page code, the purpose of which is to provide a short description of the content that is on the page to search engine users.

The description of the content of the page is displayed right below its title in the search engine.

meta description

In most cases, if a meta description isn’t provided, Google will select the part of the content from the site that it thinks best matches the description considering specific search intent, and insert it under the title. It happens as well if there is no meta description provided.

Nevertheless, in general, around 37% of custom meta descriptions are shown to users, that’s why it’s still worth taking care of this element. The better optimised the description of the page, the greater the chance of generating traffic and boosting Click Through Rate factor. 

What Does the Meta Description Look Like?

The meta description is two lines of content that appear under the page title. Ideally, the length of the text should be between 120 and 160 characters (including spaces) because the meta description is displayed in a field with a size of 680 px on mobile devices to 920 px on desktop devices.

Meta descriptions that are too long will not be displayed in full by Google.

meta descriptions too long in length

Which Pages Should the Meta Description be Placed?

The best solution would be to place a unique meta description on each page. 

Unfortunately, in the case of very large websites, this will be time-consuming, so it is worth prioritising the most important pages first and then taking care of the others – either manually or by creating a template automatically generating meta descriptions from parameters specific to a given page.

The types of pages that require special attention include:

  • Homepage – it is the most important page on the website, so you should first ensure that it has a unique meta description that describes what your website is about.
  • Service / Category / Product Pages – pages that are responsible for the conversion and profits of your business. Distinguishing them with a unique meta description can compel a customer to buy from you and not from your competition or use your services. In the case of extensive websites and stores, it is worth thinking about the possibility of automating the creation of the page description. Most popular content management systems allow this option.
  • Pages Ranking in the Top of the Search Results – i.e. all those pages that currently have the potential to generate traffic, including non-converting informational pages. A catchy description will translate into not only more visits but also an increase in the Click Through Rate ranking factor, which will help you achieve even higher positions.

Do Meta Descriptions Affect Rankings?

Several years ago, the meta description tag played a very important role in Website positioning. The content of key phrases in the meta description of the page was a ranking factor, similar to the title tag. Often, the optimisation of pages came down to optimising the meta section and adding phrases to the title, meta description, and meta keywords attributes.

Since 2009, both the content of meta description and meta keywords have ceased to be treated by Google as a ranking factor, and thus the optimisation of these two elements no longer has a direct impact on positions in organic search results.

Why Should You Optimise Meta Descriptions?

Attractive meta descriptions arouses the interest of the reader and increases the chances that they will click the link and visit your page instead of your competition.

Another benefit of optimising your meta descriptions is the fact that Click Through Rate (CTR), i.e. the click-through rate is a ranking factor that affects the position in the search engine.

As you can see, even though the meta description does not clearly translate into improving the page’s position in the search engine, it is worth taking a moment and preparing the best description of the page.

How to Write a Compelling Meta Description

The following section will be devoted to advice on how to prepare a meta description so that it attracts the attention of people using search engines and brings measurable benefits to your website.

Elements to pay attention to when creating a meta description are:

  • Brevity
  • Use of key phrases
  • Extension of the page title
  • Match to search intent
  • Using Call To Action, i.e. encouraging to act
  • Using the language of benefits
  • The use of power words, i.e. words of power
  • The ability to add emojis
  • Application of technical parameters

Brevity

As mentioned earlier in the article, the length of the displayed meta description is limited. 

You have only from 680 px on mobile devices to 920 px on stationary devices, which is why the description of the page should be contained in 120 – 160 characters.

The final decision on how long the description will be should be made based on which devices most of the traffic to your website comes from. If you intend to optimise the meta description for both mobile and desktop users, the optimal solution would be a limit of 120 characters.

Using the full range of the meta description limit, i.e. 160 characters, you must be aware that 1/4 of the page description will be invisible on mobile devices, which is why it is so important that key information appears at the beginning of the description.

Use of Key Phrases

One of the most important elements of meta description optimisation is the use of key phrases. Although their mere presence is no longer a ranking factor, it increases the chance that a potential user will visit your page knowing that it is related to their query.

An additional positive effect is that if the searched phrase, whether in its exact or inflected form, is included in the meta description, it will be bolded. This can significantly increase the chance of capturing the user’s attention.

key phrase in meta description

The presence of key phrases also increases the chance that Google will display your meta description instead of generating it from the content of the page.

Extension of the Page Title

You should always think of the meta description as an extension of the title that completes the content, while the meta description gives you a chance to expand the content with additional information.

Matching Search Intent

The search intent answers the question of why the user entered the phrase. The Internet user may, for example:

  • look for information
  • want to buy a specific product
  • compare the price

The easiest way to understand search intent is to enter a given key phrase into the search engine and examine the content of top-ranking pages. 

Looking at the meta descriptions of the top ranking competing pages will give you an idea of the search intent and in turn, inform what you include within your own description. For example, are they using language like “best”, “deal” etc to entice users to click through and make a purchase?

Call To Action

In most cases, the meta description should be written with action-oriented language. It is worth using the following CTAs:

  • go to the website
  • check our offer
  • use our services
  • discover our products
  • find out how

Demonstrate That Your Page Provides A Solution to the User’s Search Query

The meta description should be constructed in such a way that the user knows what they will find on the page and what they will gain by clicking on the link. 

The character limit does not allow for too much information, but if possible, it should be conveyed in the content that the content will benefit the user.

Use Power Words

Words that help to strengthen the message you’re trying to make are called power words. They allow you to attract more attention and increase the interest of the user

As power words, you can use, for example, encouraging adjectives:

  • free guide
  • product available immediately
  • comprehensive article
  • most up-to-date ranking
  • the cheapest products

Other power words can be related to emotions. Arousing emotions in the reader allows you to grab their attention and increases the chance that they will visit your website. Power words related to emotions can be divided into such:

  • arousing fear
  • arousing desire
  • arousing anger
  • arousing greed
  • evoking a sense of security
  • evoking a feeling of inaccessibility

Power words can also affect the senses. By using them, you directly influence the imagination of the user, attracting his attention to the page. Examples of the use of such expressions are, for example:

  • shiny necklace,
  • smooth sheet,
  • soft mattress,
  • sweet smell,
  • shiny material.

Emojis

A great way to stand out from the competition is to use emojis. The graphics attract attention, especially since Google displays emojis in full colour.

Emojis can be matched to the current theme of the page or symbolise a product i.e. if you’re selling shoes, you can use the shoe emoji. 

There are also those that can be used universally for each subpage, even in generated descriptions, such as “✔️ Check Mark”.

emojis in meta description

Technical Parameters

When preparing a meta description for product pages, it is worth using information about their parameters and specifications, such as:

  • the manufacturer’s name
  • stock availability
  • price and shipping cost
  • available configuration options
  • colour options available

This information is especially important for users focused on buying.

The best solution would also be to add the price and buyer ratings as rich snippets, but this would require appropriate Schema structured data markings in the page code.

The Most Common Meta Description Errors

Above, we have included guidelines on how to prepare the right meta description, which has a chance to encourage the user to visit the website and thus both increase traffic and improve the position in organic search results. Below we’ll  present some of the most common mistakes that occur when creating meta descriptions.

Duplicate Descriptions

Using duplicate meta descriptions limits the amount of information about the subject of the page as users will not be able to differentiate between your pages. It is doubtful that this will encourage a potential visitor, just as it is doubtful that Google will show such a duplicate if its content is not related to the subpage.

A much better solution is to use meta descriptions generated from a template, which, despite having some commonality, will still be unique and provide relevant information.

Inconsistency With Page Content

Either by mistake or as an attempt to manipulate and bring the user to the website, misleading the user by adding irrelevant meta descriptions that do not reflect the contents on the page will result in high bounce rate. In other words, they will leave your page feeling discouraged by the fact that they did not find what they were looking for on the page.

Optimising for Search Engines Instead of Users

The meta description, as well as other content elements of the website, should be prepared primarily with the users in mind.

The meta description should be appealing. The most important thing is if the user will interact with our page. Using keywords is helpful, but keyword stuffing is counterproductive.

The Bottom Line

A properly prepared meta description that will encourage users to visit your page is an important element of SEO optimisation and boosting conversions. 

It is worth taking the time to optimise this element and place a unique and appealing meta description, at least on the most important pages. If possible, they should be added to all pages, even if they would be generated from the template.

You can find many SEO chrome extensions that can help identify which of your pages’ meta descriptions need optimising.

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