What is a Meta Description?
Meta descriptions, commonly referred to as meta tags, are key elements of search engine optimization (SEO). A great meta description tag provides a clear preview of what awaits users and provides a clear call to action with actionable words. Website owners and digital marketers focus heavily on optimizing their website’s content, keywords, url structure and internal links. The final element to successful on-page SEO strategy are the title and meta description tag.
Because meta descriptions appear in organic search results under the page title, they play a vital role in improving SEO and increasing click-through rates (CTR) from search engine results pages (SERPs).
As an agency that provides SEO Services to a wide variety of industries, we are constantly asked about how various technical factors influence the results that show up in search. In this guide, we will delve into the world of meta descriptions, covering what they are, why they are important for SEO, how to write effective meta descriptions, and best practices to optimize them for maximum impact.
Meta Description Key Takeaways
- Meta descriptions are crucial for SEO and improving a website’s visibility on search engine results pages.
- An optimal meta description should be 155-160 characters long, accurately summarize the content, and include relevant keywords.
- Unique and compelling meta descriptions can enhance user experience, drive more qualified traffic to a website, and increase click-through rates.
- Meta descriptions play a vital role in social media sharing, making shared links more appealing and engaging.
- Website owners and digital marketers should prioritize crafting effective meta descriptions to optimize their website’s SEO and better connect with their target audience.
Guide to Writing Meta Descriptions
Before you write a meta description, you must understand how people discover your web pages. A meta description is an HTML tag that provides a brief summary of the content of a web page. Designed to appear below the page title in the SERPs (search engine results pages), a meta description serves as a concise summary of content.
Meta descriptions are typically 155-160 characters in length, although Google SERPs and other search engines may display longer descriptions in certain cases. Website pages may have an existing meta description, but ensuring your website pages have good meta descriptions is vital to a well-ranking website.
Meta descriptions are not visible to users on your webpage. This is often the reason inexperienced website owners overlook adding a meta description tag to every page’s code. When you take the time to add a page’s meta description tag to your web pages, you are likely to gain credibility with search algorithms and outperform competitors.
To locate the meta description of a webpage, you can right-click on the page and choose either “view source” or “view page source.”
Near the top of the source code is a section that usually looks like the section below:
And this source code would typically (but not always) would end up displaying as a good meta description in the SERP like:
Meta descriptions are commonly used by search engines like Google, Bing, and others to display in the SERPs, and a good meta description can significantly impact click-through rates.
Meta Description in Search Engines
Why are meta descriptions important for search engines and SEO? Meta descriptions are essential for SEO for several reasons:
Search Engine Results Page (SERP) Display
Meta descriptions are often displayed in the SERPs as a brief summary of a page’s content, along with the page title. This is the first impression potential visitors have of your page, and a well-written meta description can entice users to click on your link, increasing your CTR.
Meta descriptions provide users with a preview of what they can expect to find on a webpage. A well-crafted meta description that accurately summarizes the page’s content can help users determine if the page is relevant to their search query, resulting in more qualified traffic to your website.
Meta descriptions can be optimized with relevant keywords, which can help search engines understand the content of a page and improve its ranking for those keywords. This can positively impact the page’s SEO efforts and increase its visibility in search results.
Social Media Sharing
When a web page is shared on social media platforms, the meta description is often used as the default description. A compelling meta description can make your shared link more appealing to users, resulting in more engagement and traffic to your website.
Writing an Effective Meta Description Tag
While it may be difficult to write the perfect meta description, writing an effective meta description requires careful consideration of various factors. Here are some best practices to help you craft compelling meta descriptions that improve your SEO:
Consider your meta description length. Meta descriptions should be brief and to the point, with the optimal length of a great meta description being 155-160 characters. To ensure that your entire description is displayed in the SERPs aim for a meta description of this length. Avoid lengthy descriptions that may get truncated and lose their impact.
Use Actionable Language
Incorporate actionable language such as “Discover,” “Learn,” “Explore,” “Find,” etc., to encourage users to take action and click on your link.
Ensure that your meta description accurately reflects the content of your webpage. Avoid generic or misleading descriptions that do not accurately represent the page’s content. This can result in increased bounce rates and lower user engagement.
Include A Target Keyword
Incorporate relevant keywords in your meta description to improve the page’s visibility in search results. Use keywords that are relevant to the webpage content and are commonly used by users in search queries.
Provide an Accurate Page Description
An accurate meta description is just one of the many SEO tools used to enhance a user’s web search experience. SEO experts use meta descriptions to give an accurate look into a webpage’s content that may match the user intent.
Avoid duplicate meta descriptions
Each page on your website should have a unique meta description that reflects the specific content of the page. To achieve the best results in search results, avoid using duplicate meta descriptions across multiple pages, as this can lead to confusion for both users and search engines. When writing meta descriptions, rather than use the same meta description multiple times, try to write unique meta descriptions for each page.
Benefits of Quality Meta Descriptions
Meta descriptions are important and may provide many benefits to a website’s pages. Initially, a strong meta description will increase your website’s likelihood of showing well in organic search results – most notably Google’s search results. Doing so could lead to an increase in quality search traffic to your website.
While improving potential search rankings, an accurate meta description will also give the user a more clear expectation as to what they will find on your website. This accurate meta description, teamed with a strong call to action, may lead to an increase in click through rate to your website.
A strong click through rate is vital to any successful website, as it can result in better visibility, engagement, and potentially higher conversions from potential customers.
A meta description is an essential component of a website’s SEO strategy, which often goes overlooked. Meta descriptions not only improve visibility on search engine results pages but also enhance user experience by providing a concise preview of the webpage’s content. By following best practices when crafting meta descriptions, website owners and digital marketers can optimize their site’s SEO, boost click-through rates, and ultimately drive more qualified traffic to their website.
Quality meta descriptions offer a range of benefits, including higher search rankings, more accurate user expectations, and increased click-through rates. By prioritizing meta descriptions and implementing effective SEO techniques, you can improve your online presence and better connect with their target audience.
Frequently Asked Questions (Meta Description FAQs):
A meta description is an HTML tag that provides a brief summary of a webpage’s content and appears below the page title on search engine results pages. In a search result, the meta description displays in native results. A page’s meta description essentially is a preview of what a user will upon clicking the link. Accurate and dynamic copy is essential to convert a high ranking search result into a visitor. Google rewrites meta descriptions in some circumstances when a meta description is not provided or the information is not accurate.
Meta descriptions should be between 155-160 characters in length for optimal display on search engine results pages. Meta description length is crucial to success because search engines will cutoff or even rewrite poorly formatted meta descriptions. When you write meta descriptions, include the keyword phrase and a a clear expectation for users.
No, meta descriptions are not visible on the actual webpage but are included in the HTML code of the page. While meta descriptions are part of the html element, high performing website always write their own meta descriptions.
A well-crafted meta description that accurately summarizes a webpage’s content can entice users to click on the link, resulting in higher click-through rates. When you plan to write a meta description, you should consider meta description examples from competitors and search results to your keyword phrase.
Yes, incorporating relevant keywords in meta descriptions can help improve a webpage’s visibility in search results and positively impact its SEO efforts. Write a meta description that pinpoints the search keyword that is most relevant to the page.
When a web page is shared on social media platforms, the meta description is often used as the default description, making it more appealing to users and resulting in more engagement and traffic. Just like the search snippet, the meta description field on social media provides a preview for users. Dynamic content is more likely to attract visitors to your website.
Yes, each page on your website should have a unique meta description that reflects the specific content of the page to avoid confusion and improve SEO. Unique descriptions with the specific target keyword for each page is important to successful organic SEO.
Using actionable language such as “Discover,” “Learn,” “Explore,” “Find,” etc., encourages users to take action and click on your link, improving click-through rates. Action words are a call to action and inspire search users to click on your link.
Yes, using duplicate meta descriptions across multiple pages can lead to confusion for both users and search engines, negatively impacting your website’s SEO efforts. Every page on your website should have relevant information. Your meta description provides a clear definition of what is unique about each page.
Quality meta descriptions can increase a website’s visibility in search results, improve user experience by providing accurate content previews, and boost click-through rates, leading to higher engagement and conversions.