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5 Meta Description Tips To Help Your Content Get the Clicks

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5 Meta Description Tips To Help Your Content Get the Clicks


In its early days, USA Today was dubbed “McPaper” for its very short stories.

Unlike their peers at other newspapers, USA Today reporters had to digest big news into just a few paragraphs. Many in the profession criticized USA Today articles for their brevity. But I think those critics missed the talent required to synthesize and write concise copy.

It’s a skill that content marketers can appreciate, especially now that every piece of digital content needs a meta description. Our task is even more difficult than the one USA Today journalists face. We must summarize the content – no matter how long it is – in 156 characters.

And meta descriptions can’t just be short – they also have to compel readers to action. They’re one of just two factors searchers use to decide if your content is worth their precious click. (The other is the title or headline).

I’ll share some tricks for packing the biggest punch into a tiny space. First, though, let’s look at a few real-world examples.

Meta descriptions need to pack a big punch in a tiny space, says @AnnGynn via @CMIContent. #ContentMarketing Click To Tweet

A look at real meta descriptions

I know you know what they look like on SERPs, but I wanted to provide a visual reminder. So, I snapped the results from a search for “what are meta descriptions.” Yep, it’s a meta example.

(Of course, I can’t be sure each of these is the meta description. Google ultimately decides what appears in the results. It might choose a snippet from the page if it thinks the meta description as detailed in the HTML tag isn’t a good assessment of the content. But for the purposes of this article, let’s assume they are meta descriptions.)

The image shows four search results, each with meta descriptions below the page title.

The image shows four search results, each with meta descriptions below the page title. Each description ends with an ellipsis to indicate there’s more text ready to read. Interestingly, the visible descriptions are less than and more than 156 characters, so if you’re writing a meta description that you hope Google will use and fit in total, go for fewer than 156 characters or put the most important text early in the sentence.

Here’s how to make the most of the words that do fit.

1. Consider the searcher (aka why would someone search for this content?)

Think about why your audience would search for this topic. First, identify the targeted keywords for the article – this helps you understand who the target search audience is.

For example, consider Search Engine Journal’s meta description (for its article on how to create meta descriptions): “The meta description is an HTML tag that provides search engines and searchers a description of what the page is about.”

While BrightEdge describes its page this way: “A meta description is the information about your page that appears in the search engine results below the title/URL of the page.”

Both explain a meta description. However, by using the phrase “HTML tag,” Search Engine Journal indicates its page serves an audience that wants to learn about SEO technicalities. On the other hand, BrightEdge wrote its article for a more general audience, which makes sense because it targets general marketers.

Make sure your meta description fits your targeted searcher’s intent.

2. Include keywords, even if they’re already in the headline and SEO title

You’ll find plenty of writing advice that says you should avoid repeating a word in one sentence that was used in the previous sentence. You might interpret that counsel to mean that you should avoid repetition in your title and meta description. Please don’t.

Crafting a compelling meta description isn’t about the perfect flow. It’s about getting people to read and click on your content. That often takes a more promotional approach.

Crafting a compelling meta description isn’t about the perfect flow. It’s about getting people to read and click on your #content, says @AnnGynn via @CMIContent. #SEO Click To Tweet

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:

3. Entice the click – unless you don’t want one

It can seem like there are only two options for a meta description:

  • Answer the search query directly
  • Give just enough to pique searchers’ curiosity, so they click the link to read the full story on your website

If your sole purpose is to deliver the answer, answer the query directly (but expect fewer clicks). If you only want clicks, take the curiosity route.

In most cases, it’s probably best not to go one way or the other. Consider a combined approach for your meta description – give an answer (even if it isn’t the answer) and still pique their interest to read more.

You can do this by writing a meta description that explains what they will get when they choose to read your content as opposed to anyone else’s.

Use your meta description to explain why searchers should read your #content (rather than any of the other options on the SERP, says @AnnGynn via @CMIContent. #SEO Click To Tweet

Let’s look at the HubSpot meta description as it appears on the search results page for the query “what are meta descriptions”: “Apr 28, 2022 — A meta description is the snippet of information below the blue link of a search result. Its purpose is to describe the contents of the page to …”

Its meta description reads much like every other result. But if you click through to the article, you’ll find it provides examples to go along with the basic explanation. What if HubSpot revised its meta to be specific to its content and differentiate itself from the rest?

“Apr 28, 2022 – A meta description is the snippet below the blue link of a search result. In these examples, see how they describe the contents of a page …”

See the difference? Now, the searcher knows they’ll find examples of meta descriptions if they click on the HubSpot link.


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4. What about including the company name in the meta description?

If your company has sufficient brand recognition and awareness in your industry, use its name in the meta description (or title). It brings a credibility factor that other results may not.

In the SERP screenshot I included above, HubSpot, Google, and BrightEdge use their names in their page titles. In some cases, that’s not feasible. Perhaps you need the real estate to capture the article better, or maybe your organization’s name is long.

The latter is the issue for the Content Marketing Institute – it’s 27 characters. Though CMI has good brand recognition, it’s not so valuable that it’s worth taking more than one-third of the recommended title length. Instead, we include the name in meta descriptions when we can, usually at the end (“ – Content Marketing Institute”) since it’s not the most important part of the description but could be seen and helpful to some degree.

5. Don’t avoid punctuation, even though it counts toward the 156 characters

It can be tempting to save every possible character for words. In most cases, you should avoid that practice. Searchers scan the results to understand the context of the content – they rarely read the meta description word for word at first glance. So make it easy to understand at a glance.

As you write, think about how the description will appear. Is it easy to pick up the keywords and points when scanning? Or would searchers have to read closely to get the gist? If it’s the latter, rewrite it using fewer words and more sentences or breaks.

Adding a little breathing room to your description also helps it stand out among a sea of results – especially those that seem to cram in everything possible.

Bring the power to your meta descriptions

Compelling meta descriptions benefit from powerful writing more than most content elements.

To power up yours, avoid (or at least limit):

  • First-person references
  • Weasel words
  • Qualifiers
  • Intensifiers
  • Prepositions
  • Passive phrases (which almost always consume more characters than active ones)

By adopting the “McPaper” mindset, you can serve up nuggets of meta descriptions designed to sate your target searcher’s appetite.

How do you approach writing meta descriptions? Share what works for you in the comments.

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute





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How to turn the great buyer resignation into B2B career opportunities

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Create a B2B GTM strategy that buyers, execs and revenue teams love


Marketers play a large, proactive role in the buying-selling process to generate revenue across the entire buyer lifecycle – from generating a new customer, to contract renewal, to solution expansion and cross-sell/upsell.

This is no small task, especially when B2B buyers, barraged by untimely automated messages, random cold calls and lackluster outreach from both sales and marketing, are opting out of vendor conversations. B2B marketing expert Tony Zambito calls this the “Great Buyer Resignation.” This phenomenon has progressively intensified over the last five years and is both a challenge and an opportunity for B2B marketers.

A reality check

Let’s tackle the B2B challenge first by capturing today’s reality. The B2B buying process has gone primarily digital; most B2B sellers and teams have not. Sales has limited access to prospects and customers. We know the facts. According to Gartner, more than two-thirds of the buying process is complete before buyers engage directly with a brand rep. Only 17% of the B2B buying process time is spent with a salesperson across all suppliers. And this scenario is only accelerating as digital native professionals become influencers and decision-makers.


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To contribute to revenue and customer generation, B2B marketers are cranking out “leads” to help sales generate revenue. Marketers are often using legacy marketing automation-centric practices developed during the first wave of marketing technology and lead generation. The teams are pushing out random campaigns in a world where prospects and buyers already know what’s coming when they download a white paper or attend a webinar. Cringe — here come the automated nurture and cadenced phone calls.

Compounding the challenge, prospect and customer outreach happens in silos via one-off campaigns, isolated channels and focused functional teams. And data is being used to justify spending rather than apply buyer and account intelligence to deliver more timely information, better buyer engagement experiences, and more creative outreach.

The change and challenge revenue teams face are real.

Marketing’s impact opportunity in the buyer and customer generation lifecycle

With change comes opportunities for B2B marketers who understand, embrace and develop a smarter approach to identify, engage and delight buyers. And it should be emphasized that B2B teams and marketers have begun their transformation as marketing works across their entire company to play a more proactive role in all revenue and customer generation aspects.

From talking with progressive B2B go-to-market (GTM) leaders, here are strategies to stop mass buyer resignation, advance your career and have a much more significant impact on revenue growth.

1. Drive the shift from push to pull marketing

We often focus our effort on pushing email, cranking out business development representative calls, blasting ads and putting up forms to engage B2B pros. The breakthrough strategies are built around moving from pushing stuff at prospects and customers to pulling buyers through their process. Give them control. Provide options and let them guide their own journey, based on their needs, with value-added assistance. This is an art and science to master. This playbook and skill-set is, and will continue to be, highly coveted.

2. Focus on moments we create, not just those touchpoints we capture

Capture” is primarily what we do today in the form of paid media engagement to generate leads, drive web traffic and white paper downloads, and sponsor events to scan and swipe badges. The best marketers are flipping this model and asking, “How can we create moments for the buyer?”

Moment creation requires a proactive, experiential mindset putting ourselves in the shoes of our most coveted buyers and accounts. Breakthrough moments and experiences can be done through:

  • Product-led growth (PLG).
  • Interactive and self-guided applications and videos.
  • Personalized workshops for prospective buying teams at your target accounts.
  • Curated web pages that feature topical and popular content aligning with themes your buyer has been researching or engaging with over the last quarter.

It doesn’t have to be over complicated.

3. Master the full customer lifecycle

Today’s market realities and company growth mandates underline the need to build GTM models, strategies and resources around the entire customer lifecycle. With today’s prevailing Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR), Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and cloud subscription customer financial models, 50 to 70% of the profit comes from existing customers.

For a deeper perspective, a five percent increase in retention results in an estimated 25 to 95% increase in revenue.

4. Embrace data intelligence and science

We will not be effective marketing leaders or pros without the ability to access, use and interpret data. At a minimum, we must be proactive in using data to understand markets, customers, accounts and market trends. The ideal case is to be confident in turning data into insights and actions and applying data science to help guide investments, programs and experiences. Data cannot be used simply to justify or defend marketing spend.

The most in-demand marketing skills in a B2B buyer-driven world

Let’s look at a few past examples of marketing career breakthroughs to plot the future. Ironically, the emergence and mastery of marketing automation tools, data and campaigns created a generation of what turned out to be the marketing operations (MOps) profession. It’s become a well-compensated, highly respected and in-demand role. In another example, the rise of account-based marketing (ABM) created a shift of sales support-focused field marketers to revenue generation-focused members of the GTM team.

Based on the Great Buyer Resignation reality and market shifts, here are a few high-impact career opportunities for talented pros who want to up-level their professional world while positively impacting their company’s growth. It is important to point out these re-imagined roles all focus across the customer lifecycle and obliterate internal silos whenever and wherever possible.

  • Growth marketing: This high-impact role is the next level of demand marketing, which today has largely been focused on digital and paid media spend to generate qualified leads or pipelines. Growth encompasses the full customer/buyer lifecycle of revenue generation in today’s Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) subscription world. It also focuses on identifying and activating the markets, drivers and industries to grow revenue and expand the company’s total available market (TAM).
  • Journey architects: To align with best-fit buyers and accounts, this craft is an ability to use buyer and account intelligence to create experiences to more naturally pull a buyer or buying group through their journey. With a full view across buyer channels and company touchpoints, this role expands beyond marketing to ensure more timely information. For perspective, this is the buyer-driven outgrowth of what was integrated marketing.
  • Revenue ops: It is very difficult to identify and engage buyers and target accounts if your view is only on sales, marketing, customer success or finance. This progressive function demands a full view of buyer and customer lifecycles. It unifies and analyzes data to empower the rest of the front-line, customer-facing players to act on intelligence and insights.

The bottom line on what buyer resignation means for our marketing careers

Now is an opportunistic time to capitalize on market and marketing shifts and commit to buyer-centric GTM strategies and tactics. If you see a new role or transformation opportunity inside your organization or at a new company, raise your hand and dive in. These are the times when careers are made and energized.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Scott Vaughan is a B2B CMO and go-to-market leader. After several CMO and business leadership roles, Scott is now an active advisor and consultant working with CMO, CXOs, Founders, and investors on business, marketing, product, and GTM strategies. He thrives in the B2B SaaS, tech, marketing, and revenue world.

His passion is fueled by working in-market to create new levels of business and customer value for B2B organizations. His approach is influenced and driven by his diverse experience as a marketing leader, revenue driver, executive, market evangelist, speaker, and writer on all things marketing, technology, and business. He is drawn to disruptive solutions and to dynamic companies that need to transform.



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Grow revenue streams through web accessibility and compliance

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Grow revenue streams through web accessibility and compliance


1 out of 4 people in the U.S. lives with some type of disability. Because consumers are online now more than in previous years, your clients’ websites must be accessible to everyone.

It’s not merely a matter of being compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). It’s also good business—because web accessibility can deliver better results and enhance search engine optimization.

Join a panel of agency, compliance and disability leaders to hear more about how web accessibility can work for your agency and your clients.

Register today for “Agencies: Grow Revenue Streams Through Web Accessibility & Compliance,” presented by accessiBe.


About The Author

Cynthia Ramsaran is director of custom content at Third Door Media, publishers of Search Engine Land and MarTech. A multi-channel storyteller with over two decades of editorial/content marketing experience, Cynthia’s expertise spans the marketing, technology, finance, manufacturing and gaming industries.



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Why Sales Teams Should Care about the Fake Web

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Why Sales Teams Should Care about the Fake Web


The issue of the Fake Web has been all over the news lately. Perhaps most notably, Elon Musk delayed his deal with Twitter until they agreed to further transparency around bots and fake users. Additionally, a viral tweet about the increase of fake internet traffic also attracted the attention of Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.

All of this is probably not a surprise to anyone on the pulse of technology news. But it is reasonable to wonder: What does this have to do with sales?

For starters, reports show that $115 billion is lost each year in sales labor costs due to bots and fake users.

To help connect the dots here, we’ve outlined a few specific ways these bad actors impact sales teams on every level and ultimately hurt businesses bottom line.

Sales teams end up wasting time on bad leads.

Time is critical in the sales cycle. Leads need to be acted on quickly before they lose interest or forget they requested to be contacted completely. For this reason, sales professionals put a lot of time and effort into crafting the perfect email sequences, following up with leads, and nurturing these leads until they are ready to buy.

But sometimes leads that were once considered “hot” go silent. This can be because they genuinely lost interest, their priorities changed, they realized they didn’t have budget for a specific line item, or they went with a competitor. Other times leads go cold because they were never really leads to begin with – they were bots and fake users.

When this is the case, it is not only frustrating and disappointing, but it also takes time away from real genuine leads who could have used more attention. Since time is money, this is also reducing the potential revenue a business could be bringing in.

Inventory numbers become inaccurate.

For companies that sell items of limited quantities (retail brands, ticketing services, tourism and travel companies, concerts and sporting events, etc.), it is important to keep track of how much inventory is available. They want to ensure that customers are able to purchase available items while not misleading anyone into thinking something is available if it is sold out in actuality.

Obviously, a bot can’t go to a concert or put on a pair of exclusive sneakers, but they skew inventory numbers through a variety of malicious practices.

This can take the form of scraping information and reselling at a lower price on other sites, which causes businesses to overstock and undersell. It can also come in the form of bad actors committing credit card fraud by using fake or expired cards, which causes the business to lose both the product and the revenue. Additionally, bots can be programmed to instantly buy thousands upon thousands of items before real users ever have the chance to purchase.

All of this throws off the sales cycle by making it impossible to determine how much genuine interest for certain goods and services there is in the market.

Trust is lost between sales and marketing.

Many sales cycles start with marketing. A future customer might first hear about a brand through social media. Or maybe they discovered a company in a search query. Perhaps they saw a few paid advertisements and decided to dive deeper. Marketing is a critical component of driving pipeline and ultimately revenue.

Sales teams know that when leads show up in their database, it didn’t come out of thin air – it was likely a result of marketing. But when there is a pattern of marketing leads having fake names or emails, or appearing promising but randomly going silent – sales teams start to question the legitimacy of all marketing leads.

If there are bots and fake users entering the funnel and being passed off to sales, it decreases the overall quality of marketing leads, and consequently decreases trust.

For all of these reasons and more, many teams are adopting Go-to-Market Security to ensure all the hard work sales and marketing teams put in each day isn’t hindered by the Fake Web.





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