The trouble with SEO is that it’s all too easy to focus on the techie side of things. We can often forget about the human element of SEO – namely that we need to tailor our websites for real people as well as machines.
Let me explain…
Google is increasing the importance of our sales skills.
They recently revealed that they use click-through rates (CTRs) as a ranking factor in searches.
It was a pretty important piece of news, since it means that it’s no longer enough just to get your business to page one – you also have to show that you’re popular, or you’ll drop like a stone.
Let’s say that you rank in 5th position on page one for a certain keyword. Google will monitor how many people click on your page.
If your web page hoovers up a lot of clicks, Google will probably bump your page up the search results.
Equally, if no one clicks on your page, they’re likely to knock it down and give someone else a go (thus literally leave profit on the table for your rivals to gleefully gobble up).
And, if it gets an appropriate level of clicks in relation to the other pages that show up in the search, it’ll probably stay where it is.
From a strategic point of view, this approach makes sense for Google. It’s Google’s job to deliver the most suitable search results – a CTR can really tell them a lot about how relevant your content is.
This all means that the meta description of a web page has suddenly become incredibly important. It’s your one and only chance to market the content that’s on your web page.
You’ve done the hard work. You’ve got your site in front of eyeballs, now you’ve got to clinch the deal. That alone makes it a crime to ignore meta descriptions, which weirdly, is something that a lot of businesses do.
There’s a strong argument to say that they’re the most powerful marketing tool at your disposal. You’re almost certainly underusing them and… they’re absolutely free!
So let’s get your website back on track.
At their most basic level, a meta description can be described as a little synopsis that describes a web page. Its use is clear and simple: to illustrate to a searcher what a page is about before they click on it.
Your meta descriptions live and work behind the scenes of your website. They need to be entered into your content management system (CMS), but that’s as techie as it gets.
Meta descriptions are ammunition. They’re the engine room of your business.
You see, most companies have a website don’t they? The majority will depend on search traffic in one way or another. And ultimately, when all is said and done, reaching page one of Google is only part of the battle.
Really, for SEO to be successful and to truly contribute to your bottom-line, you need people to head to your website and learn about your brand.
SEO and reaching page one doesn’t translate into profit on its own.
Meta descriptions are the final piece in that jigsaw. They don’t actually contribute to SEO as such (meaning that Google doesn’t care about the exact content that you include in them), but they’ll certainly play a huge role in whether you’ll get a visitor to click through to your site or not.
To further underline their worth, perhaps it’s also worth pointing out that they can indirectly contribute to your SEO results in another way: in regards of your bounce rate.
For example, if you were searching for a new sofa, saw a result in the SERPS and clicked on it, you’d expect to see a web page with sofas for sale.
What if the web page was completely unrelated? What if it was, for instance, about cars, bicycles or movies?
Apart from being annoyed, you’d click straight off the page.
It’s an extreme example but the point is worth bearing in mind: your meta descriptions need to be relevant and helpful. If not, then you’re going to get the wrong type of visitor to your website.
Subsequently, it then follows that if you get the wrong type of visitor, they won’t be interested in your content and will leave your site immediately.
That then will adversely affect your bounce rate, which is definitely something that Google will pay attention to.
Anyway, the question is, how do you write a good meta description?
Well, let’s start with the basics.
At the moment, you’ve got about 160 characters to play with (although recent reports seem to indicate that Google are contemplating extending this).
Whether we’re talking about a sales page, a home page or a blog post, convincing someone to click on your web content as opposed to all the others is tricky at the best of times.
Doing so in 2.5 sentences is tough, particularly if you don’t have a writing background. But that’s where hard work and refinement comes into play.
Here are a few scenarios.
Supposing you were writing a meta description for your homepage. You’ll need to spend a lot of time thinking about how you want to come across. Align the style and tone of your copy with that of your brand.
For instance, if you have a pretty informal tone on your website, don’t come across all stuffy in your meta description.
Consider putting in some sort of hook or a tease to differentiate yourself from your competition. Or perhaps mention a deal or offer that you have on at the moment.
You could even put a phone number in your meta description so that searchers don’t even have to click through to your website!
Don’t forget that you can try out different styles to see what works best (just check your traffic stats in your Google Analytics account).
You’d probably need to take a similar approach if you were writing a meta description for a product or service page.
In this situation, it’s great to show up in a search, but competition is probably even more rife. If a user has entered a keyword with some sort of commercial value, we can assume that they’re actively looking to purchase.
In turn, that raises the bar. To get an active consumer to click through to your site is an amazing opportunity. Like gold dust, it’s a valuable opportunity, so don’t waste it.
Take the time to profile your ideal customer (your most common type of buyer]. List out all their pain points and why they’d need or want your product or service.
How does your product or service help them?
Hopefully, you’ll have a number of facts and benefits, so just pick out the two most important and weave them into your meta description.
Note also that your meta descriptions should all be unique.
That’s particularly relevant if you sell a number of similar or related products or services. Clearly that makes creating a good set of meta descriptions more of a challenge, but such is life.
And again, remember that you can always change your meta descriptions at at any time. So don’t fret over them – test and observe.
As a savvy business owner, you’ll know the value of content marketing. So how should you approach writing a meta description for a case study, article or blog post?
For specific pieces of content, you really need to create a meta description that stands out from the crowd.
Let’s put our task into context. According to research, there are 2 million blog posts published every day.
That’s a lot of competition, so if you’ve shown up in a search result, that’s a great start. You’ve clearly already ticked a lot of boxes for Google.
The next thing is whether your post is relevant to the user.
In the copy, it’s really important to include what benefit clicking through will be to the user. Don’t just enter a staid meta description.
The reader needs to know the value of your page. To put it bluntly, what’s in it for them? Why should they bother with you?
You think your post is great. You know it took hours, if not days, to put together. You know that you agonized over every word and did all the necessary research…
… but they don’t know all that.
Trouble is, there is a lot of terrible content being published by people who don’t have the time or inclination to create quality stuff.
And as humans, we’re often quite a cynical bunch. The chances are, many people might not be expecting great content.
So your meta description should aim to make the search feel something.
Does your post include a free download? Mention it.
Do you offer a unique solution to a long-standing problem? Mention it.
Got a great USP? Mention it.
Have you gone further with your research than anyone else has done on the subject matter? Mention it.
The point is, now is not the time to be shy. Your post is great, so say just that. And if they don’t click through to your site, then they probably aren’t the type of visitor you want anyway.
In summary, meta descriptions aren’t just important; they’re crucial to the growth of your online presence.
I shouldn’t have to illustrate the value of SEO: everyone uses search engines. And I believe the success or failure of your business will be dictated by how much attention you give to your descriptions.
However, consider just how many people use PPC ads. The copy for these ads are agonized over by businesses and agencies alike because they need searchers to click through to the website in question.
Meta descriptions are no different. And in fact, due to the fact that sponsored ads have a real trust issue, the descriptions for organic results take on greater significance.
They’re your one chance to convince people that you’re their best option. The rest of your SEO strategy is clearly working. Now it’s time to tick that final box and address your meta descriptions.
Meta descriptions are the one true crossover between traditional marketing and modern SEO. So let everyone know the value of your web page and don’t give Google a chance to nullify any SEO gains.
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