mm

Previously on the Inflowing blog, I gave an overview of “click-through rate” and why it’s something you need to care about. As it was an overview, I skated over a lot of detail in terms of how you might go about increasing the click-through rate (CTR) of your organic search listings, Google Ads, and CTA buttons. I thought I would spare you the chore of reading what could have easily been a 3000 word blog post on optimising meta descriptions, and separate this into a part 2.

And so we have arrived at part 2. For this part – I’ll be focusing on optimising meta descriptions, and how you can do this to improve the CTR on your organic search listings. CTR isn’t just about flashy graphic design, and in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), words are your chance to stand out. As the great Albus Dumbledore one said:  

Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic.”

So, now I’ve shoe-horned a Harry Potter reference in, let’s get into how to optimise meta descriptions for CTR.

 

What is a meta description?

Let’s cover off the basics first. A meta description is a short excerpt of text that appears under the title of page in the SERPs.

A meta description is something you have to set manually. If you’re using a CMS, you can usually use a plugin (such as Yoast SEO) to set a meta description for a post or page. If you’re not, you may have to hard-code one. If you don’t set a meta description, the search engine will automatically pull an excerpt from the page. It will usually try to pull out a bit which includes the keyword the user has searched, but this is obviously not ideal because you have no control over what the user sees.

 

Tsk tsk, HubSpot. 

 

Meta descriptions: the rules

There is one more thing you should know about meta descriptions before we get into optimising them. You or I (unfortunately) do not have control over what SERPs look like, so there happens to be a limitation to how long your meta descriptions can be before they are truncated. Search engines (ahem, Google), experiment with different SERPs all the time, but generally, if you’re targeting Google, you want to keep your meta description within 160 characters to ensure it’s displayed optimally.

Now that’s out the way, let’s get into the nitty gritty.

 

Examples of optimising meta descriptions – the good, the bad and the ugly

The best way to learn about what makes a good meta description is to see some out in the wild. It’s best to see them in context to be able to understand their effectiveness. 

Now I love picking on big brands when it comes to digital marketing, so I’m going to dig into a few specific examples and talk about what they’ve done well and what they could be doing better.

 

Netflix

Watch Netflix movies & TV shows online or stream right to your smart TV, game console, PC, Mac, mobile, tablet and more.”

What they’ve done well:

  • Using verbs – “watch” and “stream” inspire an action from the user. They make you want to do something.
  • Using focus keywords in the description – “watch movies online” and “watch TV shows online” are included, so ensure the user recognises high relevance of this result if searching for those keywords.

What they could’ve done better:

  • It’s not very exciting. They’ve said you can watch movies and TV shows. Then they’ve just listed the devices you can watch them on. While they’ve used active language, the rest of the language is a bit dull.
  • It doesn’t end on a CTA – as the user finishes reading your meta description, you want to end by telling them what to do next. 

My rewrite:

Watch all your favourite movies and TV shows online with Netflix. Stream the best films and TV series from anywhere. Sign up now and start watching. 

 

Asana

Easily organize and plan workflows, projects, and more, so you can keep your team’s work on schedule. Start using Asana as your work management tool today.”

What they’ve done right:

  • Using verbs – action words are back again – “organize”, “start”, “keep”, etc – getting the user to imagine what they can do with the tool and then including a call-to-action.
  • CTA at the end – where Netflix failed, Asana have not. They’ve included a call-to-action for the user at the end, and bonus points for using “today”.

What they could’ve done better:

  • Including focus keywords – although meta descriptions are not a direct ranking factor, as mentioned previously it’s a good idea to include some of your page’s focus keywords so you can a) ensure that Google actually displays your meta description and b) the user knows it’s relevant. 

My rewrite

Simple task management for you and your team. Easily organise your workflows, projects tasks and more with Asana. Get Asana today and get control over your projects. 

 

Skyscanner

We compare cheap flights, hotels and car hire from more providers than anyone else. Find great deals with Skyscanner & book your next trip today.”

What they’ve done well:

  • Using verbs – you get by now. They’ve used “find” and “book” to inspire action from the user. 
  • CTA at the end – bonus points again for using “today”.
  • Included focus keywords – I found Skyscanner by searching “cheap flights”, which is included in the description along with “book” and “compare” which are words which are likely to be common phrases people use to search for them.
  • Inclusion of a USP – they’ve managed to get in there that they have more providers on their platform than anyone else. Top marks! 

What they could’ve done better:

  • They’ve started the meta description with the word “we”. This is all about trying to get the user to do something. Better to start with a verb or adjective which describes the benefit to the user. 

My rewrite

Compare and book cheap flights, hotels and car hire with Skyscanner. We have deals from more providers than anyone else. Find great deals and book your next trip today.

 

Summary

  • Use verbs – inspire the user to act with words action words. “Start”, “find”, “read”, “get”, “book” – whatever’s most applicable to your product or service.
  • Time sensitive language is good – “today” or “now” makes the user want to act quickly.
  • Include a CTA at the end – tell the user what to do next.
  • Include a USP (if you can) – why should they click on you and not someone else?
  • Include focus keywords – to ensure Google shows your description and the user recognises that your listing is relevant .

 

Need help overcoming the mither that is meta descriptions? We have the technical SEO know-how combined with the marketing bells and whistles to help you make your website stand out on Google. Get in touch today.

 

Bonus points and free cup of coffee if you figured out what I did there.