You’re working hard to market your company. You’re writing your product descriptions, optimizing your images, and mastering most of the other elements of effective search engine optimization (SEO).

Still, if you’re like many business owners, one aspect of SEO could be giving you trouble: meta descriptions.

What is a meta description?

A meta description is a summary of up to 320 characters in length that describes the content of a web page. Search engines show it in search results when the meta description also includes the keywords being searched. Meta descriptions entice users to click through to a page and are part of effective SEO.

When you type a search query into Google, let’s use “temporary tattoos” as an example, you’re led to a search engine results page (SERP).

This page is extremely complicated, but for now let’s ignore all the ads, images, and videos, in favor of the more traditional “organic” results.

The blue words at the top are the “Title Tag.” They’re the title of the web page. Below them you’ll see a description of no more than 320 characters. This is the meta description.

Dissecting a home page meta description

Reading other people’s meta descriptions will make the process look deceptively simple, but that simplicity is the very thing that makes them so hard to write. The 320-character limit means the meta description can’t be much longer than a tweet.

The good descriptions give you a brief overview of what the site is about, as well as a compelling reason to click the title tag. It all happens so quickly and painlessly, many searchers won’t even notice themselves making a decision.

They’ll simply click on the link, satisfying their curiosity without having to think about it. Here’s a good example of a meta description.

All together, it’s just twenty one words. Clever naming helps Death Wish Coffee pack a punch here. With the first three words, “Death Wish Coffee,” you already get an idea of what the company sells (coffee) and what defines its brand (hardcore, but tongue-in-cheek about it).

Death Wish then says it’s the “top online coffee-seller.” With these words, it positions itself as the best, lets the reader know it’s an ecommerce store, and reaffirms that it sells coffee.

The next few words back up Death Wish’s claim that it’s the best. After all, it’s an ethical company (“fair-trade”) that uses the best (“organic”) ingredients, all while making sure the customer gets the strong cup of coffee they want (“high-caffeine”). Even the word “blends” positions them as coffee experts, the sort of people who put care into making sure their product is the best.

The second half of the meta description repeats the core concept of Death Wish’s brand in a way that resonates, saying, “… we have the world’s strongest coffee!”

Counting it all up, we have four words that are variations on the word ‘coffee’, two claims that it’s the best at what it does, and three different ways of backing up that claim. All in this one sentence: “Death Wish Coffee Company is the top online coffee-seller of fair-trade, organic, high-caffeine blends, and we have the world’s strongest coffee!”

Now that’s good copywriting.

Dissecting a product page meta description

Writing meta descriptions for your product pages is a little easier than writing them for your home page, because your product pages aren’t supposed to speak for your business as a whole.

Instead they’re speaking for something that offers a tangible benefit to shoppers:

  • Selling spatulas? Let the reader know that this spatula will make cooking so much easier.
  • Selling lawnmowers? Have the reader imagine a fast and easy journey through the grass.

For a good example of a persuasive meta description, let’s check out the search result for So Worth Loving’s stickers.