This article will discuss what a meta description is and how to write a meta description. These are very important issues for SEO, even though meta descriptions have no direct impact on search rankings.
What Is a Meta Description?
A meta description is a piece of HTML code that is used to provide a brief summary of the contents of a web page. The snippet of text that comprises the meta description is visible to Internet users in various places, such as in social media shares and in Google’s organic search results.
The latter area is of major importance to SEO. Meta descriptions may appear beneath the link on a Google SERP (search engine results page) and greatly influence how many click-throughs a link will get. This is why it pays to learn the art of writing meta descriptions, or make sure your SEO agency is covering this base in your SEO campaign.
Meta description best practices. Descriptions should be between 50 and 160 characters in length. Google will cut them in its SERPs if they are any longer. Meta descriptions should summarize the main content of the page and be unique for every page. Their primary purpose is to persuade users to click on the link.
No Guarantees From Google
Even with well-written meta descriptions, there is no guarantee that Google will display them. Sometimes, Google extracts this snippet of text from the page, either because the meta description is substandard or the meta description is not relevant to the search in question.
To maximize organic conversions, it’s clearly worthwhile to create quality meta descriptions. However, if Google chooses not to show your meta description because it isn’t relevant to the search in question, that’s good news — it means your content is showing in searches beyond the scope of your SEO campaign (and the more relevant the snippet, the more likely you are to get click-throughs).
How to Write a Meta Description
Now that we’ve looked at, what is a meta description, let’s turn to the issue of how to write them. No less an authority than Google offers advice for writing meta descriptions. Key takeaways from Google include:
- Making meta descriptions truly unique for each page of the website. If Google crawlers see a lot of similar content across the website, they may ignore them.
- In terms of writing style, readability is important — but complete sentences are not required. The important thing is to consolidate and summarize the major points of the web page.
- For large websites, programmatically generated meta descriptions are fine as long as they adhere to the two points above.
Other points to consider in writing meta descriptions:
- Should keywords be included? It doesn’t hurt to weave in keywords; Google will often bold keywords in a meta description that displays in its SERP, which draws user attention to your link. If your keyword(s) is highly relevant to the page — which it should be — using keywords should improve click-throughs. Do not, however, engage in keyword stuffing. This is a spammy practice that doesn’t sit well with Google or search engine users.
- Do not use double quotation marks and other symbols. Google will truncate meta descriptions at the first instance of a double quotation mark. To avoid truncation, it’s best to avoid any non-alphanumeric characters in meta descriptions.
- Is it OK to be salesy? The question to ask yourself when writing a meta description is: What does the user want to know about this page of content? In some cases, strong selling points are exactly what the user wants to know. For instance, mentioning warranties on a service page is very useful. Mentioning years in business or another credibility data point is useful on a home page. Mentioning low price and immediate shipment is useful on a product page for a commodity. Web pages intended to sell certainly can have sales-oriented meta descriptions; pages intended to inform should have primarily informative meta descriptions.
- Have a call to action. It helps to have a call to action if your meta description has room for one. A short phrase such as “learn more now” or “get the whole story” may be just the nudge a person needs to click through on your link. And speaking of room, don’t feel as though you have to use all 160 characters. A shorter meta description may get the person’s attention simply because it is short!
Overall, the art of how to write a meta description can be boiled down to:
If all of your website’s meta descriptions adhere to those standards, you and Google will get along just fine — and your SEO campaign will be on solid footing.