How Meta Copy Will Get You More Traffic (Without Better SEO)

SEO Apr 2, 2014

The writing has been on the wall for a while now: Google favors its Pay-per-Click

If you’ve been perusing the SERPs lately, you must’ve noticed that it’s getting harder and harder to truly distinguish between an ad and a supposedly “organic” search results.


Even that yellow “Ad” doesn’t really do much.

Let’s face it: your search listing is no longer only competing with 9 other websites.

You have about 20 or so competitors, between ads, local results, other websites, products, social media, images, and more.

Standing out in search results is no longer about ranking #1 for a keyword or search term. Most of the top SERP real estate is given to advertising, anyway.

And when all of these blend together, searchers are looking for results that are relevant and useful.

All you can do to convince them that you’re what they’re looking for is your meta title and description.

The one and only thing standing in between traffic success or being one of a million forgotten websites, are those 70 characters for a title, and about 150 characters for a description.

That’s it.

That’s all you’re given, to somehow convince people to click through to your site.

Are yours compelling enough?


See? Lots of competitors saying almost the same thing.

Which one would you click on?

Forget that one is higher up than the other in the results.

That doesn’t matter as much any more.

It’s all about context, and a few years ago, you would optimize your meta copy with keywords and phrases.

But with Hummingbird, the future is with relevance, context, and situation.

And click-through’s (CTR).

People will only click-through on search results that are relevant to them.

So, let’s figure out how to craft compelling meta titles and descriptions, okay?

How To Write Meta Titles That Captures Attention From Searchers

In any average SERP, you’re competing against ads, local results, images, products, and other websites.

The sole job of your meta title is to demand attention from searchers who are quickly scanning the search results pages, looking for what they think will provide them with answers or info to their search query.

No one will stop and try to decipher what your clever title means.

No one will stop and think that just because their keyword shows up in your title, that it’s exactly what they’re looking for.

You need to write your meta’s from the perspective of advertising and copywriting. Click-throughs (CTR) and targeted traffic matters more than search volume.

So, a few pointers for your meta titles:

  • Make titles relevant to searchers self-interest. You will often have to do a best guess as to what a searcher’s intent is, but the keywords and phrasing they use will reveal some of it. It almost always come down to benefits, features, problem-solving, and WIIFM (“What’s In It For Me?”).
  • Use attention-grabbing words. People will decide if they’re going to read the meta description after scanning through your title. Stop them by using words like: New, Now, How To, Free, The Truth About, Easy, Quick, Wanted, Last Chance, Offer, Hurry, Last Chance, and so on.
  • Appeal to emotions rather than logic. We can all get annoyed by headlines and titles that exaggerate or look like link and click “bait”, but the truth is: it works. People click, and people link. Why not make use of that in your meta titles?
  • Use a cliffhanger approach to your titles. Arouse people’s curiosity and lure them to read on.
  • Avoid blind titles and negative language. People will often miss the negative and think you’ve said the exact opposite, and make sure your title doesn’t depend on the meta description to be understood.

How To Write Meta Descriptions That Generates Click-Through’s

So, all good and dandy on the meta titles, right?

Cool. And an equally important part of how your landing page and website shows up in the search results is the meta description.

If the title stands out and gets someone to read it, the description is next in line when they evaluate and decide whether to click your link or not.

Your meta description needs to have the following qualities to motivate the right kind of traffic to click-through:

  • Insert your Unique Selling or Value Propositions that answers the question “Why should I click to check out your site?” question, differentiates you from your competitors, and speaks to your products or services, if applicable.
  • Understand the mindset of your ideal clients and customers and write descriptions that speak to their circumstances, train of thought, goals, and desires.
  • Write in the language used by, and meant for, your target audience. Colloquial usually works best.
  • Provide direct information that makes it clear what your page will tell them (and why it would benefit them to click-through).
  • Avoid using too much hype — some is good and even needed, but don’t go overboard with hype claims, exclamation points, hyperbole, generalizations, and more.
  • Make descriptions positive, factual, friendly, and straightforward — get to the point.
  • If you make use of Persona’s (which you should), then write descriptions that would specifically appeal to them.
  • Absolutely make use of your keywords (they’ll appear in bold in the SERPs) but don’t stuff it or make it read “weird”, as in unnatural and convoluted.
  • Know your competitors, and write either differently or riff of the same but with your own twist.
  • As always, focus on benefits over features — how would clicking through to your site help them?
  • Appeal to fear, uncertainty, and doubt. This might sound shady at best, but if you can tap into peoples fears, uncertainties, doubts and provide a solution or relief for it, you
  • should make use of meta descriptions that communicate this.
  • End with a call to action. This could be as easy as adding “Click to find out more” or “discover”, “download”, or other actions.

If you start formatting and creating your meta titles and descriptions with all these things in mind, you should see an upswing in click-through’s and targeted traffic.

You might see less overall traffic, but again the goal is conversions, not just visitors for the sake of getting visitors.

Write For Clicks And Traffic, Not SEO

Everything on a Google SERP is, at this point, advertising. Users have a hard time distinguishing between what’s actually paid advertising and “organic” search result.

And the distinction is quickly fading.

A search listing that has meta copy written with the searchers needs in mind, with the right tone, triggers, language, benefits, and incentives to click will ultimately win.

Your website is not just competing against 9 other websites, but against ads, images, local search results, products, social media accounts, and more.

If the goal is to get relevant traffic to your site (and it is!) then meta copy that’s crafted for that purpose is preferred over keyword-stuffed and poorly written copy.

When was the last time you re-wrote your meta copy?

  1. Avatar

    What about using schema to get an image next to a post…or something like that. I don’t think ads ever include those.

    1. Avatar

      Schema is definitely a plus to use, and it does make you stand out more, like you said. There are ads, though, that sometimes includes star ratings.

      But, nonetheless, having schema in place is a good idea in general.

  2. Avatar

    I am very disappointed on how Google has changed this. @rick is it possible to do so?

  3. Avatar
    Alfred Milgrom

    Have to laugh – “Start by offering your cat the best dog food” !!!
    And this meta text is highlighted as an example of a “pretty good” description!

    Just goes to show that few people read the description properly. They see what they expect to see!

    1. Avatar
      Damian Thompson

      yep it snuck right past me, LOL

    2. Avatar

      Great catch – and you’re absolutely right: “they see what they expect to see!” and that happens when the rest of the text flows well enough where it makes sense and sounds appealing. Just psychology at play.

  4. Avatar
    Adam Watson

    This is a good article I have spotted a mistake in the first screenshot. You say the meta description is pretty good in red.

    “Start by offering your cat the best dog food”

    I would say this is sloppy and I would not trust a site that feeds cats the best dog food money can buy : )

    1. Avatar
      Damian Thompson

      preferably I would feed cats to dogs… #DogLoversUnite! 😉

    2. Avatar

      Neither would I! And that means their meta description actually worked 😉 It’s turning people away!

      If you switch “cat” for “dog”, then the description reads pretty well and would to a dog lover look like a good link to click on.

  5. Avatar
    Ryan Battles

    So click-through optimization is the new SEO. I have seen companies publish an article, then tweet about it based off of a variety of title variations, and alter the title later in the day based off of which variation was the most successful.

  6. Avatar

    What you wrote about the meta description is best. I’m glad reading it a few times and inspect it in google. It seems that you are very correct. I want to give great attention to the creation of descreption such as you described. I want to know the result later.

  7. Avatar
    Damian Thompson

    Whoops looks like one of the descriptions talks about cat food for dogs, they got that one past me! 🙂

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