Meta description FAQs – 5 things everyone wants to know

We see them every day on Google’s search results pages: meta tags – the title tag that specifies the title of a web page, and the meta description underneath. But what exactly is a meta description? Is it important to have one and how do you write a good one?

These and other questions pop up with regularity among SEO enthusiasts, both beginners and those who should really know better. Let’s take a closer look on the 5 questions everyone seems to be asking to see if we can shed some light.

FAQ 1: What is a meta description?

Meta descriptions are a fundamental part of successful website optimisation. It’s the first snippet of text that you see in search results, below the page title, and should provide a short summary description of the content on your site. When you type a search query into Google, the search engine will show the meta description on the results page including the keyword you used in your search.

Example:

 

 

 

FAQ 2: Why do you need a meta description?

The short answer is that it’s good SEO practice to have effective meta descriptions on each of your web pages. While Google is adamant that meta descriptions don’t actually affect search engine rankings, they are still an extremely useful tool to help drive traffic to your site.

In fact, the whole point of a meta description is to give the user a good reason to click through to your site. A good description will give an overview of what the page is about and be written in an appealing way so that the user wants to find out more. Given the competitive nature of online marketing, a well written meta description may make all the difference between web traffic going to your page, or to a competitor page.

FAQ 3: How long is a meta description?

In theory, a meta description can be any length but do bear in mind that if it’s too short, the description you give may not be useful enough, and if it’s too long, Google may truncate your snippet. It’s not an exact science and Google likes to increase or decrease the limit now and again while conceding that, in fact, ‘there is no fixed length for snippets. Length varies based on what our systems deem to be most useful.’

At Artemis, our best practice is to write meta descriptions that are just under 155 characters long, making sure the most important messages are communicated with the first 120 characters just in case the displayed snippet does get truncated.

Example:

FAQ 4: How do you write a good meta description?

In order to convince someone to click through to your page from organic search results, you only have a short snippet of text to convey the right messages, which is why it’s worth putting in the effort to craft good copy for every unique meta description. Think of it as the equivalent of writing ad copy for Google Adwords for Pay-Per-Click.

While the content of each meta description must accurately reflect the content of the page it points to, it should be written in a compelling fashion to appeal to the reader, generate interest in your page and ultimately increase click through rates.

See if you can tell the difference between a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ meta description in these two examples:

 

 

 

 

 

 

FAQ 5: What are some top tips for writing a meta description?

So, how do you put all the above into action when it comes to writing your own meta descriptions? Commercial content writers use these top 5 tips and tricks of the trade to create great copy, including irresistible meta descriptions.

1. Write for people, not for bots – meta descriptions are primarily aimed at the user, not the search engine. While it’s important to include the main keyword(s) in the copy, don’t stuff your description full of them – it looks spammy and will put people off. Instead, make your description informative and easy to read, written by humans and for humans in an effort to get them to engage with the snippet and click through to your site.

2. Include structured content – for product pages in particular, users will be looking for information such as a detailed item description, technical spec, optional extras and, of course, price. It is highly likely that a click through to your website will be triggered by this highly relevant structured content rather than persuasive advertising copy, so make sure it is included in the meta description.

3. Feature rich snippets – you can increase the appeal of your meta descriptions by adding additional information such as star ratings or customer ratings, product details, events and much more, using the latest schema markup code. If you’re not familiar with the concept, ask your SEO consultant to explain how this can enrich the information displayed in search results.

4. Use an active voice – advertising copy is always aimed directly at the readers, with the ultimate intention to get them to do something (e.g. make a purchase). Rather than providing factual but dull information, write in an active, direct voice using imperatives (‘read this’, ‘click that’), giving clear direction towards clicking on the title tag.

5. Don’t forget the call-to-action – the ultimate aim of your meta description is to drive click-throughs to your site, so the more compelling the reason given to the user to do just that, the more successful your meta description will be. ‘Find out more’, ‘Read our blog’, ‘Book a free consultation’, ‘Shop the sale’, ‘Buy now’ are all important calls to action inviting the user to visit your website for a specific purpose.


content is king

How to write great blog content in 5 easy steps

content is king

What’s the secret to writing a successful blog? This isn’t a trick question and neither should the answer come as a great surprise: Content is king. It’s obvious when you think about it from a reader’s point of view. Why would anyone read a blog post that’s boring, too difficult or too long? Wouldn’t they click away from the page in search of a more interesting blog elsewhere?

It’s a competitive world out there in cyber space. Every blog post faces stiff competition from hundreds of other posts written about the same topic. The quality of your content largely determines whether or not your blog post will be successful.

Of course, Google knows exactly how long your readers spend on your page. Say your post comprises 1,500 words of beautiful prose but the average dwell time is only 10 seconds. The search engine is bound to conclude that you must be providing poor quality information, which in turn will affect your page ranking.

Conversely, great content will not only captivate your audience, it will improve your site’s visibility in search engine results and drive traffic to your site. It’s a tried and tested organic SEO technique to produce tangible online results.

In order to make your content stand out from the crowd so that the reader chooses your blog over the competition and reads it from start to finish, follow these 5 steps to boost your Google ranking.

1 – Write original content

Cartoon Thief in Mask With Sack

The first golden rule is that your content must be unique. Don’t ever be tempted to copy other people’s work or indulge in the dubious practice of ‘spinning’. Such unethical ‘black hat’ SEO tactics will be punished by Google, meaning your rankings will plummet head first into the abyss and may never recover.

On the other hand, if you choose to regularly post fresh, original and highly relevant content onto your site, not only will your readers thank you, Google will reward your efforts and you’ll see your site climb up the rankings. While a good content writer should, of course, research the web far and wide to help produce a great blog post or article, it’s essential to ensure that the end result is all your own work.

2 – Write a killer title and intro

Woman reading on her laptop

Spend as much time crafting a great title as you do writing the body copy. Why? If the title doesn’t inspire curiosity to click through, no-one will read your post and all your efforts will have been in vain. A killer title, on the other hand, is the bait that hooks the reader into the article, which is exactly what you want. It’s worth making the extra effort.

Once on the page, focus on delivering a powerful opening sentence or two to keep the reader engaged. Unless interest in your blog post is sparked and maintained above the fold, your reader may get bored and hit the back button.

3 – Write for short attention spans

yelling business man at the office on white

No-one reads long pages of text anymore, not online anyway. To accommodate the online reader’s notoriously short attention span and impatience to find information quickly, written web content must be scannable and easy on the eye.

Break up your writing into bite sized chunks – no more than 5 lines of text per paragraph. Use visual text aids such as subtitles, bullet points or numbered lists. Make use of photos, illustrations, infographics, pie charts, tables – anything to help break up long text passages and supply the information in a user friendly format.

4 – Write for people, not search engines

A cyborg reading a binary code.

It’s all too easy to lose sight of the fact that blog posts should be written for people, not bots, since it’s the reader who ultimately decides if the content is any good. The reader’s behaviour on the page will inform Google’s judgement about the value of the blog content which will have direct impact on your rankings.

Gone are the days when keyword stuffing and content over optimisation were a sure fire way to Google’s heart. This popular SEO trick may have worked in the past, but these days you’re more likely to be penalised for what is now seen as a dodgy tactic. Instead, focus on creating useful, information rich content that provides real value to the user, while using keywords appropriately and in context.

5 – Write for everyone

Yawning Businessman

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that good content writing is not the same as academic writing or creative writing. Instead of being tempted to show off your superior knowledge of vocabulary or syntax, use a level of language that’s easily understandable, inclusive and to the point. You want to keep you readers engaged, not alienate them.

Don’t forget that the internet is accessible to everyone regardless of education. Make sure the tone is upbeat and friendly, while short sentences and simple words are the way to go. That way you don’t risk losing your audience for reasons for TLDR!

If your business needs help writing effective content for your website or online marketing campaigns, Artemis can help. With a talented team of in-house content writers at our disposal, why not let us do the hard work for you? Contact us for a free consultation today.


Don’t know what to blog about? 5 blogging tips for business owners

content writer tips

 

Believe it or not, a successful blog has the potential to become the most popular section of your website, read regularly by existing and prospective clients and widening your business appeal. In terms of SEO, a blog is the easiest way to add regular fresh content to your site. This, in turn, will improve your Google search rankings, especially if you use relevant keywords in your blog titles and posts, and share your content on social media too.

However, in order to reap the rewards you need to make a regular commitment. An underused blog with the occasional bland update is unlikely to move you closer to your marketing goals. And while many businesses set up their blog with the best of intentions, a large proportion run out of steam after the first few posts. If your company blog has gone a bit stale and you’re looking for ideas on how to bring it back to life, read on.

Blog posts can, and should, take many different forms. Who wants to read posts that follow the same old format every time? In an effort to keep your readers interested in what you have to say, and hopefully coming back for more, don’t be afraid to mix it up. Here are some tips to get you started:

1 – Knowledge sharing

As a business owner and specialist in your chosen field, no doubt you have a lot of expertise that you could share. If you’re a web developer, you could give useful advice on how to recognise and avoid the latest scams. A surveyor could publish a guide to the different property surveys available. A photographer might share tips on how to strike the best selfie pose. You get the idea.

Obviously, you’re not going to give away any company secrets, but sharing some of your expert knowledge with the wider world will help to position yourself as a leading authority in your field, which is exactly the image you want to portray.

For extra engagement, think about putting a ‘how to’ video on YouTube and embed it in your blog post. Not only is video a great way to connect with your audience – remember: a picture is worth a thousand words – it’s also great for SEO.

2 – Problem solving

Relate to your audience by identifying a common concern or problem they may share, then help them solve it. If you’re a professional cupcake maker, why not explain how to make gluten free or vegan alternatives? A gardener might give advice on weed control or how to spot tomato blight. A solicitor could give details of the new probate fees or Inheritance Tax changes.

By helping to solve a problem, you are engaging with your clients in a way that shows you’re approachable: you listen and you care. Make the most of the interactive benefits of a blog by allowing your readers to leave comments or reviews, then reply to them individually for maximum engagement. Blogging in this way can be a powerful tool to help you build trust and public confidence in your brand.

3 – Product promotion

Clearly, the ultimate aim of your website, including the blog, is to increase sales – but be careful. While a blog can be a great online marketing tool, this is not the place for hard selling. In order to promote your products and services, you’ll need to use the ‘softly softly’ approach.

One example is a post about a common problem (see above) into which you gently weave your new product as part of the solution in a ‘by the way’ kind of way. A dentist might promote his latest teeth whitening procedures in this way, or a bathroom designer could extol the virtues of underwater chromotherapy lighting!

Another trick is to write a review about a recent industry event (see below) which your company attended with a product launch or presentation, using a paragraph of the blog post to give details about the new product. It’s good practice to include an internal link to the product page so the reader can click through if he is interested to find out more.

4 – Industry news

Sharing and commenting on relevant industry news is always good value. It shows that you play an active part in the professional community in which you work, with authoritative views on what goes on around you. Whether you’re an accountant commenting on the latest budget, or a health & fitness club evaluating new functional workout regimes, this is a great chance to add your voice to the mix.

Of course, your own company news should form part of the strategy. If you’ve recently moved to swanky new premises, tell your customers about it in a blog post. Shout about any business awards you’ve been nominated for or have received, and keep thanking your team and your customers for their support. By sharing parts of your own story, your company will cease to be perceived as a faceless commercial entity and be seen as a team of caring individuals.

5 – Entertainment

Finally, don’t forget that you can make your blog posts entertaining. This is the place where you can have a bit more fun with your brand and show the human side of your company.

From charity events where you and your staff dress up in superhero costumes, to 10 fun facts about your industry, or examples of inventive uses of your products, there’s no reason why the occasional blog post shouldn’t be light hearted.


Valentine’s Special: 7 writing secrets to help you create seductive content

Content creation is a bit like wooing a beautiful girl. You’re clear about the end goal, but what’s the best seduction technique to get you there? When it comes to writing compelling web content, you need a similar strategy to attract readers to your page and keep them engaged so they stay there. But how?

It is a well-known fact that your typical online visitor has the attention span of a love struck teenager. And while SEO managers can analyse session durations, dwell times and bounce rates all night long, what it really comes down to is that you only have a few precious seconds to sweep your readers off their feet.

As it’s the month of love, let’s take a look at a few winning ways of spicing up your web content in an effort to seduce your online readers.

1 – Heading for success

Did you know that your choice of title is more important than the actual article? It makes sense when you remind yourself that web visitors skim read for information. If the header doesn’t instantly turn you on, why would you click through to see the rest?

Try to find an interesting or unusual angle to an otherwise unsexy topic. Make it specific, informative, engaging, entertaining, shareable. Rather than ‘Home made romantic sweets’, say ‘5 tempting nibbles for your Valentine’. Be honest, which one would you rather read?

2 – Give it body and soul

Of course, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. In other words, if your article doesn’t deliver what the title so enticingly proposes, it’s no better than click bait. Choose a juicy topic that gives you a platform for;

  • education and information sharing
  • action and empowerment
  • humour and feel good entertainment

Most importantly, write assertively and with authority but without losing the reader’s attention. Use ‘you’ (not ‘I’) to better connect with your audience. Write with a mass audience in mind rather than the select few.

Have you heard of the inverted pyramid method? It’s a way of structuring your article that puts the key information and any conclusions you are drawing at the beginning of the text, not the end.

3 – KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid

When you’re writing for the web, keep it short and keep it simple. Complicated vocabulary and technical jargon turns people off quicker than you can pucker up. Short, easy-to-understand paragraphs separated by white space are best. Stick to one thought per paragraph and don’t make it more than a few lines long – five is good, three is better, and single sentences can really stand out.

Employ text formatting and structure to make your webpage, blog post or article easier to navigate. Headers and subheaders are a great idea, and bullet points are a good way to break up solid text. Try using numbered lists instead of paragraphs.

4 – Are you linking?

Same as in writing for print, it’s good netiquette to reference your sources. Apart from being the right thing to do, it also lends authority to your opinions, assertions and any figures quoted. Add a hyperlink (and do choose the option to open it in another window, so your reader doesn’t bounce away from your site!) when you mention another organisation by name.

Government or other official sources, press articles, professional bodies, charities etc. should all be linked to, though I probably wouldn’t go as far as linking to competitor sites. Doing this can help you get valuable backlinks, and if you’re really lucky you may even get a reciprocal link or quote. Now that would be a result!

5 – Love your language

This one is very simple: if you write professionally, you need to have an expert grasp of the English language. Nothing says amateur more like a page of goofy grammar and toe curling typos – it will have your would-be readers run a mile!

Proofreading is a key ingredient to ensure your copy is nothing short of perfect. Take a break after you’ve finished writing and check it with fresh eyes later-on, or better still get a fellow word lover to do the job for you.

6 – Add some magic keywords

Writing keyword-based posts can present a bit of a double-edged temptation. What’s more important: a blog or web page that is keyword-rich and will make your copy more search engine friendly, or one that is inherently engaging and shareable? Achieving both must surely be the Holy Grail of content creation.

While content writing for the web should always be driven by SEO strategy, keyword cramming is never ever the answer. In fact, if you stuff keywords into your copy willy-nilly, you’ll be watching your readability, conversion rate and SERPs rankings plummet faster than you can fall out of love, as your readers bounce off the page and Google penalises your site.

Much better to cleverly insert relevant keywords organically throughout the text, particularly in the first and last paragraphs, and otherwise focus on beautifully crafting your content.

7 – Give them more

All good things come to an end, unless you add a call to action. Where can your reader learn more? Is there an interesting video to watch, a newsletter they can subscribe to or an expert they can contact? Obviously, provide hyperlinks that can be clicked on to fulfil the action.

It’s a great idea to prolong the positive web experience in this way as it plays straight into your hands. Let the content work its magic by encouraging web visitors to share the information gleaned, or by directing them to other areas of your site.