What is a Meta Description?
Technically speaking, meta descriptions are HTML attributes that are meant to 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 to be 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.
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 their 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 should improve over time.
How to Write a Meta Description for SEO
1. Keep it short, but not too short
Meta descriptions typically get cut off at 160 characters. Write more than 160 characters and your text will get cut off.
Using a plugin like Yoast will let you preview your meta description to make sure it doesn’t get cut off. 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.
2. 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 achieve by clicking on your page. So don’t be afraid of:
- Including a Call-to-action or Offer (If you are providing them access to something they are searching for, call it out.)
- Name Dropping (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 through.)
However, don’t deceive searchers. It is going to be pretty obvious when they click on your site and your site fails to keep its promise. This will bring down your user behaviour rates, Google is on this lookout for. So don’t do it. Searchers are smart and they don’t like to be mislead.
3. Use Keywords
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.
4. Avoid Keyword Stuffing
It looks spam, and spam doesn’t look helpful, and helpful things don’t get click throughs. It’s as simple as that.
5. Avoid Duplicate Meta Description Tags
Duplicate meta descriptions can make it seem like those pages contain the same content, even though they may have unique titles and unique content. So avoid this practice when you can, and if you are working with tons and 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…
6. 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.
7. 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.
Where does the meta description go?
The easiest way customize your meta description is to download the free Yoast plugin. It creates a special meta description editor for every page on your site. It’s completely free, it’s easy, and it gives you access to some amazing resources!
You can also edit/add it to your existing 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. Hope this helps and if you have some tips of your own, please share them with us via Twitter.