7 Steps for Best Meta Descriptions for eCommerce Websites

For any eCommerce website, the value of Meta Description is for CTR (Click-Though-Rate) from the SERP (Search Engine Ranking Pages). So a high-quality Meta Description, properly displayed on Google and Bing search results, can directly translate to traffic and revenue.  Therefore eCommerce merchants should not be ignoring value of unique Meta Description as it’s directly related to the conversion of their website.

Is Meta Description Dead?

Question #1. Automate or Manually Generate Meta Descriptions?

For most eCommerce websites, manually generating meta descriptions for thousands of pages is hard to justify from ROI point of view, specially because the impact of Meta Description on ranking is very little, if any. So, while optimizing mainly for CTR, above question is best answered if we take a mixed approach – Manually generate for high value pages (such as Homepage and Category level pages) while automate for product level pages with specific product details.  In this part 1 of the blog, I’d discuss best practices for generating effective Meta Descriptions manually.


Requirements for Meta Descriptions
There are few and very simple requirements for Meta Descriptions:

  • Meta Data of the webpage
    Each page on an eCommerce website must contain a descriptive, and an accurate Meta Description. Lack of such is reported on Google Webmaster Tools. Usually, omission of Meta Description is less painful than the duplication.
  • Uniqueness
    Meta Description must be unique. Hence the mixed approach of manual review on high value pages would provide highest ROI while automating at product level makes the tedious job of going through possibly thousands of product pages manageable. Such rule-based-Meta-Descriptions must be reviewed by different product lines.
  • Duplicate Meta Description
    In no circumstances, Meta Description should be a boilerplate template for all pages on the website or keywords separated by commas.
  • Crawlability / Accessibility to Bots
    This may sound simple, however make sure to allow Bots to crawl the page. For this, make sure to avoid robots nofollow, noindex. Another important aspect is to tell Google not to display DMOZ data (from Open Directory Project) which will prevent your custom Meta Descriptions to be shadowed. Don’t forget to check the robots.txt file as well.

Here are 7 Steps for Best Meta Descriptions for eCommerce Websites:

Meta Descriptions are written for human beings, hence must be human-readable. Best Meta Descriptions should introduce the webpage to the first time visitors on a glance with high quality copy to tell them why they should buy from this website. Here are step by step guide to create best meta descriptions for eCommerce websites:

1) Keyword Research – Identify your primary keyword for this particular page

Use the primary keyword from keyword research (used also for the title tag) and come up with 140 to 160 character length description of the page. Why keyword research is important? Based upon the search query, keywords from the Meta Description gets bolded in the search results increasing your relevancy.

2) Start by making Meta Description an introduction to the page

Try to answer the question “What this page is about?” for a visitor who is looking at that page for the first time. Successful Meta Desc will be like a short summary of the page.

3) Complete the Meta Description by thinking it’s a conversion factor

Include “Call To Action” but not direct sales offers as applicable. Some thought starters might be

  • Order {product_name} today from {brand}
  • Learn more about {product_name}
  • Learn why {product_name} is important in {industry_name}
  • Read {keyword} to make sure you are complying with the
  • Comply with {state/federal} regulations.

4) Give readers a reason to click on the link – Don’t be afraid to bury the lede!

Include reason to read the content of the page

  • Discover why …
  • Find complete guide to …
  • Why you must comply with …
  • Download our …
  • Save {__} by
  • Compare {product A} with {product B} and learn why …

5) “Click Test” – Test of a Successful Meta Description?

  • Part I: Read the Meta Description to yourself, and ask if you would click on the link based upon what you just read. Is it compelling to make you click?
  • Part II:  Read the Meta Description, and ask yourself would you shop at the website, based upon the description? Does it motivate you to think about buying from this eCommerce website.

Alternatively, you ask someone else to do the “click test” for you. This is where A/B testing for Meta Description would come into picture.

6) Final Review

  • First half should explain to the readers of the SERPs, the variety, delivery speed, and you can purchase the product (vs. just getting information about the product).
  • Second half should explain the value proposition of the brand.

Or mix-match to produce interesting twists and varieties.

7) Technical Details

  • Character length: Though 140 to 160 is a good number, best target is about 155 characters including spaces. Google measures it in terms of # of pixels.
  • Don’t include specific offers that might change over time. Stick to your core values.
  • Include your own brand names within Meta Description.
  • Take a minute to think about Meta Description for paginated pages, or what happens when products are sorted in any way. In other words, do you have rel=canonical utilized properly to avoid Duplicate Meta Description issue?

That’s it folks. These are the step by step best practices to produce effective Meta Descriptions for online business.

Some important notes and HTML codes for Reference

  • What is a Meta Description?
    Meta Description is one of 3 tags most commonly found on the <head> section of <html>, which are <title> tag, meta description tag, and meta keywords tag. Check view source code on any page including this one to take a look at Meta Description. It’s not visible on the body copy!
  • Meta Description Tag Syntax
    Sentence structure with occassional capitals for important words is possibly the best practice for effective Meta Description. No all caps. Careful with quotation marks and other special characters.
<meta name="description" content="High quality Meta Description with Call-To-Action goes here. 155 Characters optimal." />
  • Meta Description Length

    Though allowed limit is 160 characters, optimal length is recommended to be at 155 character. Excel len() function comes handy here.
    Note: When date is displayed on the front, character limit comes down to 139 characters.

  • How to tell Google not to use Open Directory Project for Meta Description
    <meta name="robots" content="NOODP" /> or more specifically to Google only by <meta name="googlebot" content="NOODP" />
  • How to use Meta Tag to NOT index the webpage
    <meta name="robots" content="noindex" /> or <meta name="googlebot" content="noindex" />

Lastly, I’d like to conclude by saying use Meta Description for SEO as if adCopy is used in PPC. Meta Description is your ad in SEO.


About Ujjwal Bhattarai

Ujjwal is an engineer by education, a programmer by hobby, and an internet marketer by choice. Other than 1 minute chess, and biking, his passion includes SEO, SEM/PPC, CRO, and Web Development. As a lifelong student of Internet Development, he is hopelessly addicted to Internet, and sincerely believes after fire, wheel, and decimal point, internet is the fourth most important invention in the human history. Catch up with him on Twitter at @uj2wal or at his Google+ .

2 comments on “7 Steps for Best Meta Descriptions for eCommerce Websites

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