In some ways, business is pretty simple. You offer a product or a service to an audience and exchange value for money.
Really, issues only tend to arise when we complicate things.
Sometimes we take our eye off the ball.
Perhaps our offer doesn’t meet expectations. Or maybe we lose focus on who our target audience actually is.
But, all things being equal, so long as we can put what we sell in front of the right eyeballs, we’re good to go.
And as you probably know, there are just 3 ways in which we can acquire website traffic.
We can pay for visits via PPC, lead social media followers to our site or attract an audience organically through SEO.
The PPC option is for the adrenaline seekers who want to get things done quickly. It’s a dangerous game that ends when the budget dries up. It’s best reserved for established businesses with an established proof of concept.
The social media route is also fairly unhelpful for most companies out there. It’s great for distributing content, but pretty soon we’re stuck on this hamster wheel. We enjoy the spike of hope every time we release a blog post, but the trough of no hope soon returns.
By contrast, SEO is for the shrewd operators who think long-term. It’s got it’s fair share of technical challenges, but thanks to Google’s algorithm changes over the years, SEO is now easier than ever. And today I’ve got a great SEO tip for you that can have a profound effect on your rankings. It’s super-simple, too.
It’s time to say hello to the meta description.
The meta description is the short blurb that shows up after a search has been made:
Its purpose is simple: it’s there to help users pick which search result is most suitable for their query.
You may or may not know tihs, but metadata lives in your CMS and it can be applied to any piece of content you publish.
Now, a few years ago, much was made about Google’s announcement that meta descriptions (and titles) didn’t have an effect on SEO. Technically, that was true…. and still is.
But they meant in terms of the description being part of their ranking algorithm.
What Google does give a lot of weight to is click-through data.
In other words, the most clicks a search result gets, the more useful Google assumes it is and thus, the higher it ranks [the opposite is true, too]. Because the meta description directly affects the click-through rate, in reality, they clearly play a huge role in SEO.
Think about it.
Imagine that you’re looking for a new TV to buy and are trying to compare two well-known brands. You enter a search term and see 9 weird meta descriptions that don’t make sense. One reaches out to you and promises to hand over all the info you need.
Which one are you going to click on?
And the more people that click on this result, the more this site is rewarded.
To this end, think of meta descriptions as something that will give you an exponential uplift in traffic.
It’s a tactic that will pay off over time and the best news is that the majority of website owners totally neglect their meta descriptions (either through ignorance, laziness or both). Just do a quick search and you’ll see plenty of examples that don’t make any sense.
(Oh, because that’s the other thing: Google will definitely display something for all your content, whether you like it or not. And if you don’t supply them a bit of copy via your CMS, it might extract random copy from the web page in question.)
Okay, hopefully you’re sold on the importance of meta descriptions by now. You’ve also found out that there’s a huge opportunity for you to get some quick, easy wins. Now let’s move on to tips. How do you create a winning meta description, exactly?
Well, it all comes down to understanding your content, who it’s for and how it can help them.
Take my article on copywriting tips for instance. It carries this meta description:
In my experience, it’s only really marketing professionals and business owners who know what copywriting is.
(I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve been asked whether I do something with trademarks.)
So I had that in the back of mind. Also, there’s the theme of the article itself – it’s a post about tips. It’s there to deliver some tactics, not a flowery assessment of an ad campaign I’ve seen or anything like that.
The idea is for the meta title (which is also quite important) and the description to work hand-in-hand. The title appeals directly to the senses, like a blog headline. It should grab the attention and reaffirm the value that the searcher will get if they click.
Then the description fleshes that out a little more, hopefully teasing the reader into taking action.
Compare my description with another that sits in the top 10 for the keyword “copywriting tips” (for the UK anyway):
Hopefully you can see a start difference in potential effectiveness. Whilst my effort describes what’s in it for the searcher, this example leaves them scratching their head.
There is no incentive. No urgency. No value. The copy doesn’t even fit (current thinking is you’ve got about 155 characters to play with, but be sure to test).
Ultimately, no matter what you’re creating meta descriptions and meta titles for, it’s important to be creative. With your homepage you can put in offers, a contact number or coupon code. Your about page can have some fun. Your contact page can make people smile. Whatever it takes.
But look, you can write a meta description in less time than it takes to make a coffee. We’re talking about a job that’s a total no-brainer. What if your website is healthy, your SEO strategy is sound and this is the only thing standing between you and bucket loads of traffic, leads and revenue?
Matt Press is an experienced UK copywriter who has written words for some of the UK’s biggest brands, such as Sky, Three and Vodafone. He now runs his own copywriting company, Splash Copywriters.