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.
- 1 What is a Meta Description?
- 2 How to Write a Meta Description for SEO
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 to pay attention to.
Therefore, 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 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.
But, if you care about click through rates, user experience and user behaviour (as Google does), then the long answer is yes.
Although Google’s algorithm doesn’t directly take meta descriptions into account, 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.
So, if a lot of users end up clicking through to your site when they search a specific term, because your meta description is clear and informative, theoretically your ranking on the search results page would improve over time.
How to Write a Meta Description for SEO
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.
Using a plugin like Yoast will let you preview your meta description to make sure it doesn’t truncate mid-sentence. However, try not to go 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
But most importantly, don’t make it vague. Creating a compelling, concise and informative meta description means that you are keeping your user at the front of your mind. You are letting them know exactly what they can expect to see by clicking on your page. So don’t be afraid to:
- Include a Call-to-action or Offer (If you are providing them access to something they are searching for, call it out.)
- Name Drop (Have you worked with other amazing companies in your industry? Don’t be afraid to call it out and brag a little. After all this is your opportunity to get that click.)
However, 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. Don’t do it!
Google and some of the other big search engines bold keywords in the description when they match a searcher’s query. Therefore, you should try to capitalize on this bolded text and try to match your descriptions to the search terms you are going after as much as possible. 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 content. Avoid this practice when you can. 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.
Also, it’s important to remember that…
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. Or at the very least, they will pull the first 160 characters on the page.
Test, Monitor & Adapt
Just as how 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.
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!