Why … Meta Descriptions?

Aren’t meta descriptions basic, boring SEO 101?

How about javascript crawling or some of this other stuff over here?

Answer: I see a LOT of terrible, mindlessly written meta descriptions out there.

Take … Macy’s for example:

macy's meta description

Yuck!

Yet, there are 18 million … eighteen million searches a month for ‘macys’.

Think of all the ad dollars brands spend in the name of ‘messaging’ (print, TV, slogans, etc), to then let 18 million of your customers see that.

That’s right, this post has nothing to do with rankings yet everything to do with branding. More specifically, the space between SEO, Advertising and branding. A place that’s not always easy to “measure” but deep in your gut you know it matters.

And the little, innocuous, yet huge message those 156 characters send.

Day after day after day.

Video Explainer!

For the full in depth experience, watch this video. You don’t have to, but you may miss a few nuances.

Click to view a MUCH BIGGER picture of the whiteboard here!

(I used the camera on my MacBook Pro, and will perhaps upgrade soon).

The Qualities Of A Great Brand Meta Description

Talked about in the video, they are:

  1. They make your customer the ‘HERO’ (ie: hero’s journey).
  2. They support your brand messaging, and align with other mediums (ads, print, social media)
  3. They just sound/feel good and match your brand tone.

The Three Ingredients Of A Better Meta Description

There’s three common elements in all of business copywriting, that can also be used in descriptions:

  1. Your customer’s problem
  2. Your businesses’ solution
  3. The outcome – both in results and emotion.

Here’s a handy cheat-sheet with the three ingredients that I think make a great meta description:

meta description ingredients

(Side-note: I first consciously remember hearing this formula from Amy Harrison, on my Podcast. And the content over at Building A Story Brand inspired me as well.)

Inspiring Meta Descriptions Of 15 Brands

These are not all perfect, but they do all have elements of making the customer the hero. The spirit of that is the most important part.

I’ll leave some quick comments below, but check out the video for more analysis.

(By the way, huge thanks to Anthony Pensebene here at Evolving for helping to find some of these!)

1. MailChimp

mailchimp meta description

“Sell more stuff” is a clear simple description of what MailChimp can help you achieve.

2. Slack

slack meta description

Slack leads with the Outcome – “brings all your communication together”.

3. Asana

asana meta description

“Run your entire business” is a great way to illustrate the actual outcome of “project management”.

4. YouTube

youtube meta description

Ironically, I should note that the use of the words “you” and “your” etc are a great way to position your copy to make your reader the Hero.

YouTube, of all sites of course, does this well – “enjoy the music you love”.

5. Bing

bing meta description

I wish Bing’s search engine was indeed as good as this description!

6. SEER Interactive

seer meta description

Wil and the folks at SEER do a pretty awesome job with this! I’d say it indirectly approaches “outcome” by stating what they believe. But also, it could go a little more in the direction of being customer focused in it’s language.

7. Lonely Planet

lonely planet meta description

“You perfect trip” – is a nice personal touch.

8. Marriott

marriott-meta-description

“Start your next adventure” – Marriott sells hotel rooms but they understand the real thing the consumer wants is the full experience of travel.

9.Airbnb

air bnb original meta description

“Feel at home” – Nice! It’s rare any brand involves an emotional outcome (the holy grail!) but Airbnb pulls it off.

9.1 Airbnb Update

air bnb meta description

Even better – Airbnb seems to test or update descriptions! Too bad they took out the emotion, but this description is still very centered on the consumer.

10.Snapchat

snapchat meta description

Snapchat isn’t a “messaging app” (product) it let’s you “talk with friends” (outcome).

11.Square

square meta description

“Get paid faster”. “Run your business”. Both outcomes for the user.

12. ModCloth

One of my favorites, and in the video above. Again a rare use of emotion in the outcome. You’re not just buying cloths, you’re going to feel more confident and be the best you.

13.Big Lots

big lots meta description

A surprising one from Big Lots. Come on ya’ll if Big Lots can do it…

Simple, but “find surprises” is not a product or service, but the experience one feels when shopping there (at least as they claim).

14. Dressbarn

dress barn meta description

Not in the top 5 of the 15 listed, but at least they are using “You’ll” and “Find your style solutions”.

15. Lyft

lyft meta description

“Your friend with a car”. Lyft is selling you on the people not the service.

What Not To Do! 3 Examples

I think you can really feel the contrast in a good description vs a bad one, by checking out some poor examples.

Macy’s

macy's meta description

As shown in the video. Macy’s is pretty much just … product, product, product, free shipping, product…

NO showing of an understanding of the customer’s problem or outcome.

Disney

disney meta description

I’m honestly surprised. Disney of all companies should be able to incorporate story, so this goes contrary to their brand.

Why “the official website”? It’s 2017, I think anyone who sees “disney.com” (brand.com) knows it’s the official site. Wasted characters.

Match

match meta description

And Match, of all sites – this should be an easy one. Maybe they are trying to be neutral but all they are doing here is listing product features.

The New Evolving SEO Meta Description

Taking my own advice, I updated our meta description!

This was the old one:

old evolving seo meta description

Pretty bad. Maybe worse than Macy’s. I don’t think I’d even updated it since 2011, or maybe 2013 at best.

Annndddddd…. the new one:

evolving seo meta description fix

I don’t think it’s totally perfect (“be more successful online” still seems weak – if anyone has any suggestions, I’m all ears). But much better than before.

Don’t Let Those 156 Characters Be An Afterthought

They matter – especially if you’re a medium to bigger sized brand! Being even small. Maybe 100-200 people search my homepage may show in search a few hundred times a month. But now that I’ve realized how to convey the right message, I care about showing that to users.

Show your customers that you care. Use that little space in search engines to reinforce your message.

Brands spend million on ad impressions, I don’t think a few words are much to ask.

Share Examples Below!

Do you have any examples of great brand meta descriptions to share?

Leave them in the comments.

About Dan Shure

Hi! I'm Dan Shure. I write all of the posts and host all of the podcast episodes you'll find on the Evolving SEO blog. Say hello on Twitter @dan_shure!

32 Comments

  • January 9, 2017 Reply

    Dan Shure

    One example I didn’t include in the post: Google Allo!

    “Introducing Google Allo, a smart messaging app that helps you say more and do more. Express yourself better with stickers, doodles, and HUGE emojis & text.”

    “Say more” “Express yourself” are great descriptions of outcomes.

  • January 11, 2017 Reply

    Tim

    Hey Dan,

    Curious, is there a reason why “Bring” is capitalized in the Evolving SEO meta description?

    Cheers,
    Tim

    • January 11, 2017 Reply

      Dan Shure

      Looks like a mistake, fixing, thanks!

  • January 12, 2017 Reply

    Ranjan kc

    Hello Dan,

    Thank you for this great article. I feel like you did it in a good way. As I saw your examples I can say that I am on a good track of writing meta description!

    • January 12, 2017 Reply

      Dan Shure

      You can do it, it just takes some practice 🙂

  • January 12, 2017 Reply

    Rebecca Lehmann

    I’m rather happy with the meta description we wrote for our coupon pages. We know what you’re here for and that you probably already have a shopping cart loaded up in another tab, so we cut right to the chase, use a little dynamic proof of concept.

    “Ready to check out? Add one of our 21 Macy’s coupons and promo codes to your cart now and save some extra cash like the smart shopper you are.”

    • January 13, 2017 Reply

      Dan Shure

      Yes I like that. Simple, but you show them right away you know their exact scenario. And addressing them as a “smart” shopping reinforces the identity!

  • January 13, 2017 Reply

    Mark Kennedy

    This is so true. I always tell employees and clients to write descriptions with a PPC mindset. Calls to action, promos, etc. In fact, we once landed a client because he liked our description tag…

    “SEOM Interactive offers both SEO and PPC management services to small and medium-sized businesses. We kick ass for the little guys.”

    • January 13, 2017 Reply

      Dan Shure

      Hey Mark

      Nice, yes using “little guys” probably resonates because I know a lot of small business feel ignored or not helped by agencies. Shows them you’re on their side!

  • January 16, 2017 Reply

    Steven Norris

    You have a typo in your company’s landing page meta. the “bring” is incorrectly capitalized.

    • January 16, 2017 Reply

      Dan Shure

      Thanks Steven! Tim mentioned that too, I had fix the description but not the actual screenshot. It’s updated now too! -Dan

  • January 18, 2017 Reply

    Vin Boris

    I have seen meta description of your website. Seems pretty cool and eye-catching. But is keyword stuffing is not important in Meta tags for better search results.?

    • January 18, 2017 Reply

      Dan Shure

      Vin – Google claims that meta descriptions do not count for rankings. I would usually try to get one or two in there, especially on product/service pages (this post is about homepage meta descriptions) – but I definitely wouldn’t stuff them!

  • January 26, 2017 Reply

    Rebecca

    My questions is: does anyone pay attention to meta description other than search engines?

    • January 26, 2017 Reply

      Dan Shure

      Just speaking for myself, as a ‘focus group of one’ but I definitely do! And not as an SEO but just user as well.

  • January 30, 2017 Reply

    Sarah

    Love this article and the examples make the difference. Great!

  • February 4, 2017 Reply

    Payel

    Hello Dan,
    Great article.
    Had the same question that Vin asked… but the common concept is to include focus keyword in Meta Description.
    What do you say? And any suggestion for Title
    Thanks!

    Payel

  • February 8, 2017 Reply

    Danielle Thompson

    Do you write a meta description for every page or just some?

    • February 8, 2017 Reply

      Dan Shure

      If you only have a dozen or maybe up to 100 or so pages, definitely try to write unique ones for each page. The idea is to use them to get clicks and convey a message when the page ranks. If you have thousands of pages, you may want to look in Google Search Console and see which pages have the highest amount of impressions and work on those first.

      • February 8, 2017 Reply

        Danielle Thompson

        Thanks! Great info. Followed on Twitter.

  • June 1, 2017 Reply

    Miro

    Is question mark, colon, the semicolon is considered as one complete sentence by Google for meta description?
    answer quickly

    • June 23, 2017 Reply

      Dan Shure

      They are for sure counted as characters, but the number of sentences doesn’t matter much for meta descriptions, just the total amount of characters – so I wouldn’t worry!

  • June 23, 2017 Reply

    Matt Grant

    There are so many blog posts about how to write meta descriptions, I have even written one myself. It’s really interesting to see everyone’s take on ‘the perfect’ meta description. Good post by the way, Asana’s meta description is one of my favourite examples.

    • June 23, 2017 Reply

      Dan Shure

      Thanks Matt – for sure. Also keep in mind I’m just talking about a brand’s homepage. A product, category, article or other inner page’s meta description would be very different!

  • July 26, 2017 Reply

    Peter N Peveto

    Wow, Thank You, so much for this article. I was clueless on how to write title and meta description for my site.
    After viewing your video and reading this whole article and all these comments I have a good idea what I am going to write, to make my SEO PoP!
    Thanks again, It’s nice that there are people like yourself who offer help to those of us who are new and just starting out.
    PNP
    Lakes Area Diversified Supply.

  • August 22, 2017 Reply

    Barbora

    Hey Dan,
    these examples are pretty cool inspiration. So are the basic rules and the “hero” (or ego:)) effect, about which you are talking in the video. I am wondering, if you personally use different tone of voice or call-to action in organic search and in social media. Do you use open graph for Facebook to say your message in different way? I was doing some research and among other things, I was writing about it here: https://blog.spotibo.com/meta-description/. I would like to hear your opinion on this topic. In what cases can it be a good idea to talk in different selling language? Do you have any example? Thanks.

  • September 20, 2017 Reply

    Jodie Wachs

    You’re a Great teacher Dan! It’s very hard trying to figure out all the different ways to make your company or product smile bigger! Love the examples! So much easier to learn! Thanks so much.
    Jodie/Romancing Joe Company

    • September 22, 2017 Reply

      Dan Shure

      Thanks Jodie 🙂 Being a piano teacher for 12 years in a past life helps 🙂

  • September 24, 2017 Reply

    X. Max Etienne

    Hi Dan,
    Months back, I got across your article and found it quite interesting, but never really thought about it… While I was working on my website content it suddenly hit me! Rushed to find your article, watched the video again, and red the example properly and attentively, made some search, comparison, trial and errors… Well not easy that easy to come up with the right SEO Title and Meta Brand Description, especially for a non native English speaker! But your simple example helped me understanding and applying your tips and tricks my company website. Personally I’ve opted for a mix of making the reader a hero and playing on emotional outcome!
    Key Words Focus:
    “Africa Specialist”
    SEO Title:
    “Serene Tours DMC Africa – Your Africa Specialist & Safaris Tour Operator”
    Meta Brand Description:
    “Journey to Africa? Plan & book the Safari you want with your Africa Specialist. Serene Tours DMC Africa, feel the difference with lifelong lasting memories!”
    Let me know if not too much?
    Thanks a bunch!
    Max

    • September 25, 2017 Reply

      Dan Shure

      Awesome and I think your title and description are pretty spot on!

  • November 13, 2017 Reply

    benaiah juma

    Thanks for the tips

  • November 15, 2017 Reply

    Rishi Kumar

    Awesome!! Thank you very much Dan for this valuable information about meta description optimizing. It helps me alot in optimizing meta description for my Party Venue Booking website. In the past, I noticed that, in SERP pages, few results contains more than 156 characters long meta description. So it’s in practice to add long meta description?

    Thank you again

Leave a Comment

Error: Please check your entries!