mistakes to avoid when writing meta description

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) works to have your content more visible and searchable on the Internet. When your SEO efforts yield results that push your website up the search rankings, how do you give the Internet user a final nudge to visit your website?

Meta descriptions are a great way to reel in a potential customer to your website when your URL appears on the search results page. A well-crafted meta description can entice Internet users to visit your website over others – even if they are ranked higher than yours. 

What Is A Meta Description?

A meta description is a text – more of a snippet – that’s found below the URL and summarizes what the website is about. 

Here’s an example of a meta description:

If you launch a Google search query on your mobile phone using the keywords “digital marketing $100”, our URL for the article “How To Launch A $100 Digital Marketing Campaign” will appear on the first page of the SERP. 

Right below the URL, you will find the meta description explaining what the blog is about – how to launch a digital marketing campaign for $100. 

There are other URLs on the search results page. Which one will you click on? It would depend on the meta description. 

Your decision will be influenced by the meta description that best summarizes the points of the blog – the main discussion points that are relevant, useful, and address your current needs. 

For example, a meta description that includes contact information might generate more clicks than a URL without contact information because it makes the process of connecting with the business easier for the Internet user – even if those URLs are ranked higher than yours.

Therefore, meta descriptions can contribute to having an effective SEO strategy. 

6 Mistakes To Avoid When Writing Meta Descriptions

Please take note that Google has taken steps to rewrite as much as 70% of the meta descriptions of URLs that appear on its search results page. Such is not the case with other search engines like Bing and Yahoo. 

Still, 30% of your original meta description will remain unchanged. Even if your optimization strategies are not focused on Google searches, it will be worth your time to come up with effective meta descriptions.

Here are 6 mistakes that you have to avoid when writing your meta descriptions.

1. Writing Meta Descriptions That Are Either Too Long or Too Short

Consumers have a very short attention span. If your meta description can’t get an Internet user’s interest within 6 seconds, he’ll check out the next URL. A good rule to follow when writing meta descriptions is to stay within 120 characters for mobile devices and 160 characters for desktop users. 

Conversely, it’s not a good idea to make your meta descriptions so short that the Internet user does not get much information out of it. 

An effective meta description is one that hooks the reader right away. From the get-go, it should tell the reader what the article is about. 

In our sample of a meta description for Mountaintop Web Design, the reader is informed that the page he’s about to click will teach him how to create a digital marketing strategy for US$100 or less. 

When writing your meta description, focus on being concise. Highlight the main discussion points of the article and why the reader should click the URL. 

2. No Call-To-Action

As we mentioned in the introduction of this article, the meta description is supposed to “nudge” the Internet user to visit your website. You can do this by including a Call-To-Action or CTA.

A CTA is a command; what do you want your reader to do when he comes across your meta description? You only have a few seconds to trigger an action. What would you want that action to be?

Let’s assume you wrote a blog entitled “How to Lose Weight – Without Going On a Diet”. 

On the URL for this particular web page, you can write the following meta description:

Lose weight without the struggle. Download your FREE ebook on the tastiest and healthiest recipes now!

This type of meta description works for 2 reasons. One, it tells the reader that he can get an ebook of recipes for free. Two, the CTA commands – nudges – the reader to download the free ebook NOW by clicking on the URL. 

3. Meta Descriptions Have No Relevant Keywords

A meta description is a tool for optimizing your content and that means it will be more effective if the description includes high-ranking keywords. 

Think of a meta description as another location where you can expand the title of your blog. This time you can put in more detail to keep the reader interested in your content. 

Google and the other search engines still rely on keywords to index content. Your meta description must contain good quality, high-ranking keywords that are relevant to the topic. 

Similar to using keywords to optimize a blog, focus on relevance, usefulness, and engagement when choosing keywords for your meta description. For sure, Google will analyze your meta description for keywords and highlight the ones that best correspond to the search query of your audience. 

4. Overstuffing Meta Descriptions With Keywords

On the other hand, using too many keywords for your meta description or overstuffing will hinder your search ranking efforts. 

Keep in mind what we mentioned in #1 – stay within 120 to 160 characters for your meta description. How many keywords can you use for a description that’s 160 characters long? Not many.

Include the primary or main keyword in the description then support it with a few secondary keywords. The primary keyword is the keyword that you use for the title.

Stuffing the meta description with similar keywords will get the ire of the search engines, especially Google which is big on fresh and unique content.

5. Duplicate Meta Descriptions

A consequence of overstuffing the meta description with keywords is that it might create duplicate descriptions for other web pages. 

If you have other web pages with meta descriptions that have similar keywords you’ll get red-flagged by the search engines for having duplicate content. This will not be good for your efforts to climb up rankings on the search results page.

How does this happen? A web designer may have used a plug-in that automatically generates meta descriptions for the web pages and he forgets to check each one.  

A website does not have many pages. Take the time to review the meta descriptions with your web designer. If you have an SEO practitioner on board, ask him to review the meta descriptions.

6. Meta Description Is Inaccurate

It’s also possible that the meta description does not accurately summarize what the article is about. When this happens, the meta description is viewed as irrelevant, not useful, and not informative. 

Google may end up editing more than 70% of the meta description. What’s worse is that having an inaccurate meta description will have the search engines disregard your content and affect your chances of moving up the search rankings. 

Conclusion

If your current strategies – blogging, link building, email marketing, and social media marketing – are successfully pushing your website to the top of the search results page, the meta description could be the difference-maker.

Contrary to what you may have heard or read from the naysayers, meta descriptions still play an important role in optimizing your website.

When competing for market share, every advantage counts. The meta description may become the secret weapon that makes Internet users choose you over your competitors.

Let’s give your website a boost up the search rankings by giving it a meta description that does the job. Give us a call or send us an email and we’ll do a free assessment of your website.

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