Search snippets: How to write meta descriptions that increase your click-through rate

Ever thought about why you click on certain search results on Google? Your choice was likely influenced by the snippet that was presented—that is, the page title and meta description.

Run a search online and you’re presented with a plethora of results to choose from—thousands, if not millions, of results.

What gets you to click through to a specific website?

Chances are you evaluate your options based on a page’s title, the URL, and the brief description presented on the search result page.

Or to put it another way, you’re looking for relevance. You’re looking for the best possible result based on your search intent. This search behaviour is precisely why you should pay attention to the quality of your own meta descriptions.

What is a meta description?

A meta description is the ‘preview’ text presented to you by search engines when you look for something online.

It’s also called a snippet and looks like this:

Snippets are made up of a page title, URL, and a description that summarizes a page’s content. They exist to help individuals, like you and me, know what to expect if we click through to that page.

Tips for writing an effective meta description

To convince searchers that your page has the answers they’re looking for, you’ll need to stand out and give individuals a great reason to click on your link. You can do that by customising your snippet.

With my own site to manage, I’ve had to learn a thing or two about what to do to improve my click-through rate (CTA). That insight is what I’ll be sharing with you today—must-know tips for writing effective meta descriptions.

Consider character count, but don’t stress about it

According to Spotibo, meta description lengths in 2019 are as follows:

  • 158 characters or 920 pixels on Google
  • 168 characters or 980 pixels on Bing
  • 168 characters or 980 pixels on Yahoo
  • 120 characters or 680 pixels on Mobile

Descriptions that exceed the allotted space get truncated and will not display in full. That is actually why we tend to stress about meta description length.

Screenshot of a meta description that has been truncated

The ideal description is succinct yet compelling. But sometimes it’s just not possible to fit everything into approximately 155 characters. So rather than worry about character or pixel count, put your focus on writing a description that accurately gets your message across.

What information should you include to motivate searchers to choose your page over the others? Answering that question is more important and ultimately what will help you get more clicks.

Still concerned that shortened descriptions will prevent people from clicking through to your site? Then aim to get the most important points in the first 120 characters. That way, a few extra words (that get cut off) won’t necessarily ruin your message.

Write descriptions with the customer (or searcher) in mind

Screenshot of a meta description that has been written with the searcher's needs in mind

A reliable way to improve your CTA is to write descriptions that are actually helpful for your target audience. That means two things:

  1. It’s an accurate description of the page’s content.
  2. The content is what the searcher was looking for.

To address those points, you’ll want to answer questions like:

  • What kind of problem is the person trying to solve with this search?
  • Is there specific information they are looking for?
  • What solution are you offering?

TIP: Don’t resort to misleading descriptions because that will only disappoint readers and reflect poorly on you as a business in the long run.

Strategically incorporate keywords

Your description should include your most important and relevant keywords. Work them into your text naturally and in a way that makes sense.

Screenshot of a meta description that has keywords in it

Search engines are more likely to pull up your site as an option when the search keywords match those in the meta description and, of course, on the destination page. You’ll see them highlighted in bold, like in the example above.

Don’t forget to include a call-to-action

Screenshot of a search snippet with two calls-to-action in the meta description

Great meta descriptions motivate searchers to take action. You can achieve that by using an active voice and adding a clear call-to-action.

Be original, be interesting

You’re customising meta descriptions because you want to stand out amidst the sea of options. The point is to grab a searcher’s attention and get them to click through. To do that, you’ll need to craft original descriptions that will pique searchers’ interest.

Screenshot of an original and interesting meta description

To summarize, you will want to do the following:

  • Be descriptive
  • Appeal to readers’ desires
  • Use facts in your description
  • Speak your target market’s language
  • Point out what makes you different

TIP: Make sure you aren’t copying and pasting the same meta description for multiple pages. If you can’t think of anything to write, or have far too many pages to write descriptions for, then leave it blank for Google to populate.

Should you customise meta descriptions?

With everything you already have to do, you might be wondering: Is writing your own meta description worth all the effort?

Why bother when Google will populate the description with text from your page that it deems most relevant to the search anyway?

It’s not guaranteed that search engines will display your description the way you intended, but customisation allows you to:

  • Preview a page’s content in a way that aligns best with your brand
  • Use your brand’s voice and tone from the earliest possible point of contact
  • Focus on a message that you feel will resonate most with your target audience

TIP: If you don’t have the time to customise every meta description, make sure you get them done for your most important pages. That is, your homepage, product / service pages, high-traffic pages / content, and pages that are media-rich but that don’t have much text content on them.