It’s a common mistake to treat your meta description as an afterthought. You’ll spend hours on your page copy, making sure it incorporates your keyphrases and cleverly conveys what’s brilliant about your product. Just before hitting publish, you’ll remember to type out a quick tweet-sized blurb that tries (and often fails) to summarise what you’ve written.
The painful truth of writing for the web, and especially for ecommerce, is that this half-baked sentence or two might be more important than the rest of your copy put together. As the snippet of information that’s displayed below the page title in a search result, it’s a first glimpse of not only your product but your brand. Google’s results page is the market hall, and your meta description is that bloke deafening everyone by yelling about half-price strawberries. It’s not subtle, but people are paying attention.
Essentially, your meta description needs to answer the question – whatever that question is. It’s the same deceptively simple rule that applied in essay writing at school, but with higher stakes and fewer words. Google searchers are asking for something specific, so every word they see must be there for a good reason.
Getting the meta description right
A meta description should be no more than 155 characters. Remember that you’re not trying to cram, but to encapsulate your page in an accessible, appealing way.
If you don’t write one then Google will do it for you (and sometimes it’ll write one even if you have). Google is good at many things, but it’s no poet laureate – so it’s well worth using your own creativity, product knowledge and word choice to place what you’re selling front and centre. Make sure your targeted search phrase appears at least once in your meta description.
As a crucial part of page optimisation, it’s easy to assume that a meta description directly impacts search ranking. In fact, it’s not factored into Google’s ranking algorithm, although it’s believed that click-through rate is – meaning the main aim of a meta description is to increase click-through rate.
The meta description is widely compared to an “elevator pitch”. The analogy makes sense, but you’ve got far less time than it takes a lift to travel between two floors. Even two seconds is pushing it, so make sure your voice doesn’t get lost in a sea of text. Why does your page deserve people’s attention more than any other?
If your ecommerce business sells one flagship product, then you’ll want to pour everything into the product page. There won’t be a word out of place, so an effective meta description will probably come easily – you’ll summarise the product in a punchy, arresting way just like you did in the page copy.
However, if you sell hundreds or even thousands of different products, you might not be able to handcraft a meta description for every single page. So how do you make sure they’re all working for you? There are two things to consider.
First, decide what your priority pages are – use Google Search Console data to look at impressions and current click-through rates. You might choose 15 to 20, and they’ll either be the products that are pulling in the sales, or the products that you wish were doing that. For each, explain why the brand is unique and why the product is indispensable, and directly invite the customer to find out more (without being repetitive or keyword-stuffy).
When it comes to the pages you don’t have as much time for, it’s advisable to use a template. As long as all your meta descriptions mention the product name, the brand and one of several variations on a call-to-action, you shouldn’t go too far wrong.
Product category pages
Your product category page might exist primarily as a gateway to more important pages – but it’s your shop window, so it needs to rank well too. Make sure it’s as appealing as the page itself – provide a flavour of the products within, but don’t just list them. Show off unique selling points, and make the page seem a useful resource that will help the customer make an informed decision.
Call-to-action language like “discover more”, “take a look” and “see the full range” is useful across the board for meta descriptions, but especially here. Again, think about what search queries you’re targeting – for category pages, customers are more likely to use less specific, shorter keyphrases than for product pages.
This example namechecks the product in several ways in order to capture different search terms. It reads well and get straight to the point, summarising exactly what’s useful about the product without being pushy or over-the-top.
By demonstrating your authority, blog posts are an excellent way to improve your site’s traffic. You can discuss your area of knowledge, use high-value keyphrases and give your brand personality, all within a quality piece of writing. However, they’re not much use without an equally well-written meta description.
The most effective blog posts focus on one search query. Your readers’ search intent is informational rather than commercial or transactional, and you’re trying to answer to a question that isn’t properly answered by anyone else. So do the same in your meta description – or at least convey that this is what lies within.
This example not only makes the question clear, but offers an indication of how it will be answered – positioning itself as an authority before directly inviting the reader to find out more.
With a blog post, remember that you’re not trying to push people to a product page or drive conversions. It’s about building customers’ trust in your brand, before they’ve really noticed they’re on an ecommerce site. It’s storytelling, not selling, so your meta description should be doing just that.