If you have ever used Google Adwords or Bing Ads, you know that you have to capture your customer’s attention and get them to click, all in a measly 3 lines.
The First Line 25 Chars. (24)
The Second Line Gives You 10 More. (33)
Then You Seal The Deal In The Third (35)
There is another kind of online search ad, too. Except it’s not really an “ad,” since you don’t pay for it. But you do need to EARN it. Are you catching on?
It’s your website’s listing in the organic SERPs(Search Engine Results Page). You do need to work your ass off to earn a listing high enough, but once you have one, the description you see below the page title(called a meta descriptions) is one of the main reasons someone will click your site and not someone else’s.
Especially if you are in eCommerce. With informational pages, it may be possible that your page is the only one that has that particular information that the searcher is looking for. But with a product listing, there may be tens or hundreds of other people that have the same or similar product.
So you need to entice people to see your site and NOT someone else’s!
Why meta descriptions are like paid ad copy
Meta descriptions are like paid ad copy(and actually better) in quite a few ways:
1) You have a limited number of characters to convince people that your site is the one where they will find what they need(most search engines show about 160 characters before truncating).
2) Paid ads are so effective because they force you to condense everything you have to say into just 95 characters over three lines! Properly written, an ad(or meta description) will convey everything you need the customer to know. Why do you think Twitter is so popular? It forces you to be concise! On the internet, being concise rules!
3) Good or bad meta descriptions and ad copy can make or break your campaign. You could be ranking very high in search engines, but if your meta description sucks, and you aren’t Amazon.com or Walmart.com, tough luck getting people to click!
And the one reason they’re better:
4) When you use Rich Snippets(Schema.org markups), your character count gets magically boosted – so you can show data like price, reviews, and availability. With paid ads, you would have to lose characters if you wanted to show this info. With rich snippets and meta descriptions, you get to put both!
Anatomy of good meta descriptions
Like any good Pay Per Click ad, your meta description should convey what your page is about and/or why people should click on your result.
Combining a clever title tag with a proper meta description is a spot-on strategy. Think of the title tag as the headline of the ad, and the descriptions should elaborate. Remember, you don’t necessarily need the whole keyword in the description. Although adapting it in the copy is useful as it will bold those words in the result, when you are targeting a multi-word phrase it will eat up all of your characters.
At the very least, your meta description should have:
1) Your unique selling proposition. What makes your site so special? Is there something about you that makes you different from the hundreds of other websites on the internet talking about similar things?
2) Offers. Meta descriptions are great places to sneak in any special offers that you have, like free shipping, coupon codes, discounts, freebies, or any kind of promotions. This method is a little tricky because it may take a while for the new descriptions to show up in results, so it’s not good for flash sales.
3) A little information about the product. Even a short phrase about what makes the product so good will make a big difference.
If you leave your meta descriptions blank, Google will pull a random snippet from your page and display it. Not really helpful.
When writing a description, use a character count tool to make sure you are under 160 characters. It’s better to be well under, because search engines can sometimes be moody and truncate more characters, too.
Powerful meta descriptions ad examples
This result from Englin’s Fine Footwear summarizes the product(a type of shoe) very nicely, but doesn’t mention anything about why they are special:
This result from VictorPest.com conveys the benefits of their product and their USP into one super meta description. They are at an advantage because their USP is their product!
This result from AceHardware.com conveys one of their USPs in their meta description:
Tips for writing good meta descriptions for unique products
When your products are unique, meaning they are your own products or generic products that aren’t branded, you’ve got a little space to elaborate on why your product itself is better than everything else. Essentially, in this situation, you ARE your product, so a separate unique selling proposition is a little secondary.
For example, take Remee – a company that makes sleep masks that help you have lucid dreams that you can control. That product by itself is pretty awesome, so their meta description focuses on the product itself, rather than anything else:
They may offer other things like free shipping, an awesome return policy, or excellent customer service, but they don’t need to highlight that in their SERP ad.
Tips for writing good meta descriptions for brand name products
When you are a reseller for brand name products, focusing your precious 160 characters on the benefits of shopping from you as a store is more sensible. Your title tag should have the product name in it anyway, and maybe even a part of your USP.
Your meta description should elaborate on that USP, and if you have room, talk a little bit about the product itself, too.
When someone searches for “orange mens running shoes” and a listing from your site comes up for “New Balance Men’s Running Shoes – Orange,” you shouldn’t waste too much space hyping New Balance shoes.
People already know what New Balance shoes are, and there are probably fifty more stores selling the same thing. Here, you should focus on the benefits from buying from you and not someone else.
While PPC ads are sort of guaranteed to show, the lifetime value of having good meta descriptions and ranking your site in organic search makes a lot more sense both in dollar terms and in terms of ad “space.” Remember to keep testing your descriptions to see which one converts the best.
Which are your favorite examples of good meta descriptions? What kind of descriptions make you click? Share with us in the comments!
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Thanks to Voldy Morton for the image!