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8 Meta Descriptions Mistakes You Should Stop Doing (+ Tips to Fix Them)

  • Grace Lau
  • 7 min read
8 Meta Descriptions Mistakes You Should Stop Doing (+ Tips to Fix Them)

Intro

Google alone processes over 63,000 searches per second on any given day. So how do you encourage consumers to click on your page instead of others?

If you want to improve your click through rate (CTR) you need to take the time to add meta descriptions to your sites’ webpages.

A high-quality meta description can make an enormous difference in funneling traffic to your website. Even if other sites rank higher on the search engine results page (SERP), your meta description can make your content more visible and easier to find on the internet.

What Are Meta Descriptions?

A meta description summarizes the content on a webpage. It provides additional information, such as the main points of the article, besides the title and URL.

But meta descriptions can also do much more. They offer an additional opportunity to further promote your enterprise and optimize your website.

Why Are Meta Descriptions Important?

Meta descriptions help users to quickly decide whether they wish to click on the link to your web page. A user’s decision to click through to your webpage heavily depends on how closely the meta description matches what they’re looking for.

If a person is looking for information about selling online, for instance, they are more likely to click on a link that includes a meta description featuring online sales than one that doesn’t. And it goes without saying that a user is even less likely to follow a link that doesn’t include a meta description at all.

Using meta descriptions is an important part of an effective search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. When it appears on a SERP, it is important that your webpage attracts the eye and engages with the target audience, as well as encouraging follow-through. Quality meta descriptions improve visibility and click-through potential.

Beware…

When thinking about how to create high-quality meta descriptions for your site, it's worth keeping in mind that Google can rewrite, truncate, or even completely replace your meta descriptions. These changes depend on a few different factors, such as the type of device being used to make the search.

Google is slightly less likely to rewrite meta descriptions that truncate (Image source: ahrefs)

However, that doesn’t mean that meta descriptions should be left out. Google will usually still use a high percentage of your content so you should take the time to ensure your meta description is the best quality and relevant to the user, improving your CTR.

Even so, not everyone uses Google as their primary search engine, so producing a quality meta description is always worth your time and effort.

For example, if someone searches for virtual office phone services. While Google may truncate your meta description because they are searching on a mobile device, that meta description should still contain details from the content on your webpage, even if it has been condensed to make it more visually pleasing on a smaller screen.

8 Common Meta Description Mistakes

1. Not Including a Meta Description

Why would you spend the time and effort to create a top-quality piece of content only to allow it to disappear on a SERP with a low CTR?

An equally ineffective approach is to copy and paste lines from the article. Meta descriptions should be seen as exclusive and separate from the content of the webpage. It is not the article, but a summary that draws the reader in and makes them want to click to read further.

Tips to fix this:

  • Never leave a meta description blank and avoid copying and pasting lines from the body of the content.
  • Tailor your meta description to draw the eye of the reader. Make it a unique piece of copy – an extension of the content, rather than a simple point-by-point summary.

Perhaps someone is looking for an app for a virtual whiteboard and they want to compare the features and prices. They’re more likely to click on a URL that includes a meta description stating what features and prices are included in the content. Why would they waste their time clinking on a URL if they don’t know whether their questions will be answered?

Not Including a Meta Description (Image source: pexels.com)

2. Not Getting the Length Right

Your meta description needs to grab a consumer’s attention quickly. But it’s vital to get the balance right between a short description that doesn’t provide enough information and a long one that the consumer can’t be bothered to read to the end. Either way, you’re going to lose clicks.

Tips to fix this:

  • An effective meta description hooks the reader immediately and should make it clear.
  • Your meta description should also be concise, highlighting the main points of the article and why the reader should click through for further information.
  • Keep meta descriptions between 120 and 160 characters, without becoming too obsessive with it.

For example, the meta description for your guide on how to get app reviews could feature a very concise and intriguing pitch of 100 characters. If it’s effective and generates a high CTR, why add more when you don’t need to?

3. Misuse of Keywords

Like the length, mistakes regarding keywords range from not using any to using too many. Keywords are useless if you don’t make them relevant and accurate regarding the content.

If your meta description isn’t relevant to your page or doesn’t contain keywords, Google will simply choose the first sentence from the body of the text that contains what it thinks is a relevant keyword and show that in the SERP.

On the other hand, cramming as many keywords as possible into your meta description will only hinder your SERP rankings. Search engines often highlight the keywords and if your meta description appears crammed with bold text, it will appear overly busy and spammy to the user.

Likewise, if you create a lot of similar content, it may be tempting to copy your meta descriptions to save time. Unfortunately, this approach could cost you in the long run, as consumers are likely to skip over what they deem to be duplicate content.

Misuse of Keywords (Image source: ignitevisibility.com)

Tips to fix this:

  • Always use keywords in your meta description that are accurate and relevant to the content of the page.
  • Choose a primary keyword and support it with one or two secondary keywords. The primary keyword should be included in your title. Don’t overstuff the meta description with keywords.
  • Create each page with its own unique meta description.
  • As part of your ongoing SEO strategy, it’s a good idea to regularly check any SEO issues.

4. Leaving Out a Call to Action

A call to action (CTA) encourages the consumer to take action in the way you want them to when they visit your webpage.

For example, a consumer is searching for the best phone system for business, and your page is featured on their SERP. A call to action could be included in the meta description such as, “Click here to sign up for a free trial!”

Clicks improve positioning in search results, so why not encourage it when you can. Consumers want the content to be informative, but they also like to know what to do.

Tips to fix this:

  • Include a CTA in your meta description when it’s relevant. You only have a few lines to encourage the user to take action, so make sure your meta description is purposeful and nudges them in the direction you want them to take.

5. Too much detail

It’s tempting to use the meta description as a snippet of everything included in the article. However, if you include every important point in the meta description, who will bother to click on the page and read it in full?

Tips to fix this:

  • Don’t offer too much detail.
  • Think about your meta description like it’s the trailer for a movie. You want to give the consumer enough information to capture their interest, but don’t give away the entire plot.

Too much

(Image source: pexels.com)

6. The Description is Boring

Boring meta descriptions do not entice people to read more. You want your page to stand out from the crowd, increase CTR, and set users on the journey of their customer life cycle with you.

Tips to fix this:

  • Keep the content specific to the article.
  • Meta descriptions should feel natural, not simply snippets of text strung together.
  • Make your description stand out using numbers, symbols, and special characters. You can even use emojis to help draw the consumer’s eye to your page.
  • Make sure your meta description is customer-centric. You need to show what your page offers the customer and why they should click on it. Make it clear that your page will provide the answers they need.

It can take time to perfect, but it’s a good idea to practice and fine-tune writing your descriptions.

7. Not Utilizing Rich Snippets

Rich snippets are an additional visual feature that can help your meta description stand out in the lines of search results. They can be a picture, a star rating, or relevant numerical figures such as a price.

Rich snippets are visually eye-catching and have been proven to improve CTR.

Tips to fix this:

  • Use relevant rich snippets as part of your meta description to help draw the user’s eye to your page.

For instance, if you run an art and craft tutorial website, you could include rich snippets such as a picture of the finished piece, how long it takes to create, and a list of the supplies required as part of a visually pleasing and easy to read meta description.

Here are two search result examples. The first utilizes rich snippets, the second doesn’t.

SERP Result 1

SERP Result 1

Which are you more likely to click on?

8. Ignoring your competitors

Are your competitors getting better results in terms of search ranking and CTR? What are they doing that you aren’t?

If you’re struggling to establish where you’re going wrong, it’s always a good idea to check out the competition and learn from them.

Tips to fix this:

  • Try a SERP checker as part of your competitor analysis to find out what’s working for them.
  • Do a search on your chosen keywords and check out the meta descriptions of the results on the first page. What features make these the highest-ranking results?

Identify the elements of these effective meta descriptions, then you can apply these techniques to your own and reap the rewards.

Ignoring your competitors (Image source: pixabay.com)

To sum up…

Meta descriptions should play an important role in your SEO strategy, driving CTR and improving search rankings.

As such, it’s critical to take the time to ensure your meta descriptions meet the expectations of consumers.

Don’t ignore the advantages of using meta descriptions to help your web pages stand out from the crowd. They can be the difference between your web pages getting overlooked and ranking low and your content achieving high CTRs with a significant conversion rate.

About Author

Grace Lau is the Director of Growth Content at Dialpad, an AI-powered cloud communication platform for better and easier team collaboration using the features of conference calling on Dialpad. She has over 10 years of experience in content writing and strategy. Currently, she is responsible for leading branded and editorial content strategies, partnering with SEO and Ops teams to build and nurture content. She has also written articles for sites such as Workpuls and SoGoSurvey. Here is her LinkedIn.

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Grace Lau

Grace Lau

is the Director of Growth Content at Dialpad, an AI-powered cloud communication platform for better and easier team collaboration. She has over 10 years of experience in content writing and strategy. Currently, she is responsible for leading branded and editorial content strategies, partnering with SEO and Ops teams to build and nurture content.

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