3 Ways to Optimize Your Meta Descriptions for Search Engines

Posted on May 4, 2017 by in Tips & Tricks | 14 comments

3 Ways to Optimize Your Meta Descriptions for Search Engines

When it comes to Search Engine Optimization (SEO), focus keywords often get all the attention, but they aren’t the only element you need to keep an eye out for. Meta descriptions are also critical to achieving a good click-through rate from search engines, and you’ll need to pay attention to them if you want to increase your organic traffic.

In this article, we’ll go in-depth about the role of meta descriptions in SEO, discuss their benefits, then show how to optimize your own in three different ways. Let’s get our SEO hats on!

An Introduction to Meta Descriptions (And Their Benefits)

Simply put, meta descriptions are the brief descriptions that appear below the title of your pages on search engines. However, they can also appear wherever you share your content (social media, for example), so it’s important to make sure it gives readers an idea as to what to expect.

An example of a meta description.

A great meta description is all about providing as much information about your piece as possible within a narrow format (usually 135 to 160 characters). To do so, it should fulfill the following criteria:

  1. It should be straightforward and not come across as too ‘salesy’.
  2. Your post’s focus keyword should be included.
  3. It shouldn’t be a duplicate of any of your past meta descriptions.
  4. You should include a Call-to-Action (CTA) if possible, since it can help boost your click-through rate.

Point number two can be particularly important since Google highlights the keywords it finds within your meta description. If we were to do a search right now using Elegant Themes as our keywords, here’s how one of the results would look:

The result of a search using the keyword, Elegant Themes.

Technically, the bolded text doesn’t make any difference in your Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), but it can help boost your click-through rate by making your content pop. When it comes to search engine traffic, you need to use every tool at your disposal to make your site look more attractive.

3 Ways to Optimize Your Meta Descriptions for Search Engines

So far, we’ve already discussed what makes for an excellent meta description. Now it’s time to talk about how you can improve yours using three simple techniques (that apply regardless of your field). First, let’s talk about structure.

1. Consider the Structure of Your Meta Descriptions

Similarly to blog posts, your meta descriptions should be clearly structured, yet more condensed. Your structure is key because you have only a limited amount of words to play with. As we mentioned earlier, the ideal length for a meta description is somewhere in the range of 135 to 160 characters. Any longer and search engines will truncate the text, which means potential visitors will only see part of your description, which may not be enough to ‘hook’ them.

In most cases, your meta description should first introduce a compelling problem, fear, desire, or question, then present an answer.

An example of a well-structured meta description.

Structuring your meta descriptions properly is the best way to adapt to the format’s limitations.

Take this article for example. In this case, we went with the following meta description:

Meta descriptions are critical to your Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and this post will show you three ways to optimize them for search engines!

This excerpt checks all the right boxes: it falls within the 135–160 characters mark, presents a desire, and promises a solution. While we’ve only used a handful of words to describe the article’s content, in conjunction with the title, you should be able to glean what the post is about. On the other hand, expanding the description means readers wouldn’t get the full information due to truncation. In that case, they might choose to go for another, simpler result.

2. Match Your Meta Description’s Tone With Your Content

Tone – in this case, the ‘writing voice’ you use – is just as important as structure. In fact, it’s one of the biggest factors in whether the reader will click through to your article, so it has to be right.

An example of a meta description with a friendly tone.

A friendly tone is always useful when it comes to tackling complex topics.

The tone you use will be based largely on your site’s branding, and it’s usually best to try and harmonize the tone of your article and description. That way, there’s no dissonance once readers click through. For example, we usually strive for a friendly tone in our articles since it can help to explain and understand complex subjects. Our meta descriptions try to match the tone so potential visitors have an idea what they’re in for.  Take this example from our archives:

Landing your ideal client seems like a dream. In this guide, we’ll show you how to make that dream a reality and get noticed by potential clients.

It comes across as friendly, and looks to strike an inspiring tone. On the other hand, if our blog had a more technical slant to its pieces, we might have gone with something such as:

Landing your ideal client is all about selling yourself. In this guide, we’ll teach you how to do that in three well-structured steps.

While this description is a bit more to the point, don’t be fooled into thinking it’s the wrong approach. In this case – as in most others – your unique voice should be the deciding factor. If your writing has more of a technical style, your meta descriptions should match it – otherwise, it might come across as forced.

3. Use Keywords Properly Within Your Meta Descriptions

We’ve already touched upon the importance of including focus keywords within your meta descriptions, so let’s discuss how to properly include them.

An example of a meta description with a highlighted keyword.

Keywords don’t need to be overly complex to succeed, but some may be more competitive than others.

First off, you may be tempted to stuff your meta description with multiple instances of your keyword, but that’s the wrong approach. The same rules on keyword stuffing in articles also apply to meta descriptions, and not heeding this could impact your SEO. What’s more, keyword stuffing could affect your description’s tone, make it sound stilted, and take away from the limited real estate you have to ‘sell’ your post.

Let’s take another look at this article’s meta description:

Meta descriptions are critical to your Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and this post will show you three ways to optimize them for search engines!

You’ll notice that the focus keyword is only included once. It’s all you need for the sentence to make sense, and placing it near the beginning of the description makes it pop out even more in the SERPs (visually speaking).

A bad example of how to approach using focus keywords within a description might look something like this:

You can get more clicks on your articles by optimizing your meta descriptions. In this article, we’ll talk about how to improve your meta descriptions using three techniques.

Not only is this description way too long, it also sounds stilted and it repeats the focus keyword unnecessarily. When it comes to meta descriptions, even the smallest details are amplified by the short format – paying attention to all of them might just give your content the boost it needs to succeed.


It’s easy to overlook meta descriptions in favor of other elements, but that’s an SEO mistake you shouldn’t make. If you pay attention to your meta descriptions and craft them carefully, you could find your posts making their way up through the SERPs.

Before we wrap up, here are the three main ways you can go about improving your meta descriptions:

  1. Consider the structure of your meta descriptions.
  2. Match their tone to that of your content.
  3. Use keywords properly within your descriptions.

Do you have any questions about meta descriptions and their impact on SEO? Ask away in the comments section below!

Article thumbnail image by IconBunny / shutterstock.com

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  1. Thank you for the advice – Such simple tweaks will help a website with SEO – Thanks John

    • You’re welcome! We’re glad you found this article helpful. 🙂

  2. Meta descriptions are really important and manually adding them can increase the conversion rate of the article 10x more.

    • Thanks for your comment! Meta descriptions do play an important role.

  3. How do you do that section background expansion at the bottom of this page “401,632 Customers Are Already Building Amazing Websites With Divi. Join The Most Empowered WordPress Community On The Web” where the blue expands?

  4. Excellent article with a lot of great tips! Thank you kindly. I especially liked your comment that adding a ‘call to action’ in your meta description increases you sites click through rate.

    • You’re welcome! Thanks for your input. 🙂

  5. Good reminder, thank you. A tool like screaming frog can come in handy in situations like this where you may want to see all of your meta descriptions at once.

    • You’re welcome, Arif! 🙂

  6. Hi,
    I have been using Yoast’s pro tool for some time and try hard to make sure that keywords match thru the article to the title, and the meta, etc. Usually I let it use the “default” meta for the article – based on the initial sentences of the article. I found though with some “chatty” articles, that doesn’t work well because the meta doesn’t convey what is really in the article.

    Sometimes I find that writing the meta for the post is more difficult than making the post itself. With yoast, I do make sure that the keyword appears three times (as shown in your example).

    Integrating a call-to-action has been a difficult area for me to do without sounding corny. I also don’t want to follow what I have been seeing lately with the “This dog saw his owner and you will never believe what he did next” type of tag. I find myself purposely not clicking on these types of links.

    Thanks for the article. Every day is another day learning.

    • Hi Joe, thanks for your input! You make some excellent points. 🙂

  7. Meta descriptions are handy for driving more conversions for any business that’s why I make sure to add them properly.

    • Hi Moe! We agree completely. 🙂

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