SEO and Analytics

How To Write An Exceptional Meta Description for SEO

August 31, 2017
By Forge and Smith

When it comes to acquiring traffic to your website, every effort counts. That’s why it’s so important to make sure that every page, post, and other piece of crawlable content on your site has a properly configured meta description.

What is a Meta Description?

Meta descriptions are HTML attributes that provide concise summaries of your webpage(s) for users who discover your site in a list of search results.

Visually speaking, it’s the text that appears below the blue clickable links and the green url text on search engine results page (SERP).

Why are Meta Descriptions Important?

Think of meta description as advertising copy rather than just an optional text field. The purpose of a meta description is to thoughtfully sum up the page’s content, drawing in potential clients and customers from the search engine results pages to your site. It is an important part of search marketing, and one of your most powerful opportunities to drive traffic.

Writing a compelling meta description that includes important keywords you want associated with your page can help you maximize click through rates and give you an edge your competitors.

Is a meta description a Google ranking signal?

The direct answer is no. Google announced a long time ago that neither meta descriptions or meta keywords factor into Google’s ranking algorithms for web search. That said, Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines have acknowledged using meta descriptions, which is why SEO tools like Yoast still recommend optimizing them. 

Plus, if you care about click through rates, user experience, and user behaviour (as Google does), then the long answer is yes. That copy below the page or post title is what helps searchers understand exactly how relevant your content is to the query.

Your meta description is one of the few customizable spaces on a search engine results page where you have the chance to attract searchers to your site. Google uses user behaviour to help determine ranking, since the search engine giant’s goal is to always present the best result for the user. 

If a lot of users end up clicking through to your site when they search a specific term, thanks to a clear meta description, theoretically your ranking on the search results page would improve over time.

How to Write a Meta Description

Keep it short, but not too short.

Meta descriptions typically get cut off at 160 characters. If you write more than 160 characters, your text will get cut off on most devices.

Using a WordPress plugin like Yoast will let you preview your meta description to make sure it doesn’t truncate mid-sentence. However, you don’t want to make it too short either! You should be aiming to use all the real estate you have, within a range of 140-160 characters.

Note: Sometimes search engines will show a different meta description than the one you have customized if they think it better describes the page.

Make it compelling, concise and informative.

Creating a successful meta description requires keeping your audience at the front of your mind. You are letting them know exactly what they can expect to see by clicking on your page. Don’t be afraid to include a call-to-action!

But while you want to make your page sound as appealing as possible, don’t deceive searchers. It will be immediately obvious when they click on your site and your clickbait description fails to deliver. This will bring down your user behaviour metrics, through bounces (immediate exits without taking further action on the page). Don’t do it!

Use keywords.

Although keywords in a meta description aren’t critical for your page’s ranking, Google and some of the other big search engines bold keywords in the description when they match a searcher’s query. Seeing the phrase that they searched in this text can make a searcher believe that your content is the right choice. Therefore, it’s a good practice to use keywords when possible, as long as they fit naturally. These might be short- or long-tail keywords from your keyword strategy. 

Avoid keyword stuffing.

It looks like spam, and today’s searchers are accustomed to spotting spam. It won’t get clicked, and won’t serve its purpose. 

Avoid duplicate meta description tags.

Duplicate meta descriptions on different pages might save time, but it can appear to search engines as though those pages contain the same content, even if they have unique titles and unique copy. Avoid this practice at all costs. If you are working with tons of custom post types, trying using the Yoast meta description template so you can customize the basic variables to craft a custom template meta description without having to re-write a new one every single time.

Sometimes it’s okay to not write meta descriptions.

Not all pages need something custom, and when you don’t have something custom in place, search engines will do their best to pull out the most relevant information for the user. At the very least, they will pull the first 160 characters on the page.  

Test, monitor & adapt.

Just as you wouldn’t want to run the same ad for years on end, you don’t want to just write a meta description and then forget about it. In organic search, it is one of the first impressions you make on a user, so keep up with it, test things out, and find out what works best for you and your audience. When you conduct a content audit, include reviews of all SEO titles and meta descriptions to reflect current keyword strategy, business goals, and branding.

Want your website to attract as much search traffic as possible? Check out Why Organic Traffic Matters (and How to Get It)!

Where Does the Meta Description Go?

The easiest way customize your meta description is to download the free Yoast plugin for WordPress. It creates a special meta description editor for every page on your site. It’s completely free, it’s intuitive, and it gives you access to some amazing resources!

You can also edit/add it to your existing website code like this:

 <meta name=”description” content=”This is an example of a meta description. This will often show up in search results.”>

So there you have it: our tips on how to write and create an exceptional meta  description for SEO. We hope this helps you improve your search traffic! 

Forge and Smith

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