iwc blog image meta descriptions

What are Meta Descriptions and Why Do I Need Them?

I adopted a senior cat and I can never get her to come to me.

“Here kitty, kitty.”

Oh sure.

“Psssp, psssp, psssp,” or whatever that cat sound is.


Pop the food can. Rap the bowl on the counter.


But rattle the treat bag, and here comes old lazy bones out from under the chair.

Getting visitors to make that final, simple click and actually visit your website is a lot like catering to and cajoling a skeptical cat. Sometimes, you just have to rattle the treat bag and hope they like what you’re serving. That’s where meta descriptions come in.

Meet the Meta

There are many uses and definitions for the prefix meta. It derives from Greek and Latin origins meaning the “data about data.” It’s a step back to look at and describe the big picture in a small number of words.

In content marketing, the meta description is that two- to three-line pale face summary that shows up right below the link in a search result. It’s a teaser, touting content and giving the reader a taste of why your website satisfies their particular search. The meta or mini-description has significance because it can compel or repel, instantly determining if the person will click through or scroll down.

Ranking in the search engine results pages (SERPs) can be influenced by the wording and construction of the meta descriptions. Points are given for relevance, of course, but search engines also consider the creativity, tone and overall look of this ad copy, if you will, when determining what to present first in their results.

155 Characters of Sizzle, Not Fizzle

By definition, meta descriptions are content writing as an afterthought, after the blog or site content is completed. But let me emphasize, they are much more than an afterthought! Every time your website comes up in a search, maybe hundreds of times a month, this is the message viewers will see. Don’t let that be just a throwaway. It’s like buying a billboard on a busy street and then covering it with a sheet. Let this essential space be the first impression your potential customer sees. Even if there isn’t a click through this time, the message was seen and could be remembered.

Here are some examples of meta descriptions I’ve written in the past to promote this blog for our digital marketing agency:

  • Pillar pages are to websites what table of contents is to an ebook. Hyperlinks lead to the important sub-sections of content from one unifying point. See how.
  • It’s your chance to celebrate the change of seasons. This seasonal marketing content strategy will put a little spring in your site.
  • Doctors, are you searching for ways to capture and convert website visitors? Maybe your healthcare marketing needs a mass infusion of our medical content.
  • Competition makes the world go round and the prices come down. Don’t rule out exotic sounding Emirates Airlines when shopping for great flight deals.
  • A digital press release gives reporters news they can use in their publications and broadcasts. Instead of coming up with leads, the leads come to them.
  • Complement your website with a Facebook Page for Business. From apps to maps, you’ll be amazed at what this social media mainstay can do to shake things up.
  • Public relations writers know how important the press release is to managing the message. See how this traditional tool translates to digital strategies…
  • Capture your share of the local market and come out above the competition. Citations can really boost search results ranking when created this way.

Do’s and Don’ts of Meta Writing

Do Show Empathy

Assure the searcher you understand exactly what they need by stating the problem right up front. “Looking for an honest accountant?” “Daycare decisions can be daunting.” “Rest assured we offer warranted appliance repair…” Lowes seems to feel my pain without wanting to sell me a new fence.

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Don’t Mislead

Have you ever followed garage sale signs for miles only to find out that sale was last weekend? That’s how mad people get when they follow the promises of a well-written meta description only to find the actual site content overhyped and hollow. This greatly increases your bounce rate, which is not a good thing. If your meta description misrepresents content, the searcher will hit the ‘Back’ button, grumpy and gone forever.

Do Give Details

People recognize basic, bland meta descriptions when they see them. Yada, yada, yada. So be clever, be poetic, turn a phrase and pack a wallop. This is the bait that hooks the fish. This website does everything but fry the hushpuppies!

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Don’t Stuff Keywords

Some meta descriptions are one long keyword list. Stuffing content with keywords is bad for SEO. It also erodes the trust level between searcher and website. It’s okay to exceed expectations but never fall short. Keywords show up bold in the search so you’ll look busted right off the bat.

Do Match Brand Tone

I just love this tagline: Delivering Curated Fragrances for Every Mood.

Bring it on! Does it come with a pizza? Once you are a NEST customer and understand the product  (elegant, upscale, costly candles), you’re ready for their new service: a customizable candle-of-the-month subscription. What will they think of at Next?

Delivering Curated Fragrances for Every Mood. Subscribe to Next Now!

Don’t Write a Novel

A meta description should be right at 155 characters. Of course, you can write less. Google cuts off anything more than that so make sure what you want to say is used up front. This meta description for Caldrea fabric softener wraps to a third line making it seem too long. And avoid big words like efficacious. They take up space and annoy people.

Scent is Our Signature. And Yours. Shop Now For Fabric Softener! Limited edition scents. Botanical benefits. Clean and moisturizing. Natural and efficacious. Types: Hand Soap, Laundry Detergent, Candles.

Do Concentrate on the Customer

Who needs help? Who’s searching? Who do you work for? If your meta descriptions aren’t customer-centric, you won’t connect. Always utilize “you” and “your” whether it’s empathizing with the problem or emphasizing the solution.

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Make your meta description a precise preview of your valuable, informative content. Roll out why the searcher should read your post. Use action verbs like “Discover,” “Learn,” and “Understand” to emphasize the benefits of clicking through. Use this space to showcase what you sell, make, market or blog about. And don’t let the crafting of it be an afterthought.

If you want help with meta descriptions (or just coaxing your cat from under the chair), contact our team of talented content writers. Find out what treats will lead new customers to your business today.