A meta description is an HTML element that describes and summarizes the content of a web page. It is often brief and provides information for both page visitors and search engines.
What Is a Meta Description?
A meta description is an attribute within the meta tag. It describes your page and can appear as a snippet in search engine results pages or SERPs.
You can find a meta description under your page’s URL in SERPs. It can also appear when your content is shared across various social media platforms and websites.
To find the meta description of any web page, right-click on the page and click on “view page source” from the drop-down menu. The meta description often appears on the top part of the HTML code. If you find it difficult to search for the tag, use CTRL+F and search for the keyword “meta description.”
What you’re searching for looks something like this:
<meta name=”description” content=”Text of what your snippet is supposed to be.”/>
Why Do We Need a Meta Description?
A meta description’s primary purpose is to get someone who’s conducting a search to click on your link. It exists to help your page generate click-throughs from search engines such as Google.
A meta description can influence a searcher’s decision such as whether or not they’ll click your URL and view your content. This is why it’s crucial to have a meta description that’s optimized for searches, meaning it’s descriptive or attractive and relevant to the searcher.
While meta descriptions and meta keywords aren’t considered to be factors that can affect a search engine’s ranking algorithms, meta descriptions, in particular, can have an impact on your page’s click-through rate or CTR.
CTRs have an indirect benefit when it comes to rankings. When a search engine determines that a page has good click-through rates, it will see that page as a good result. Based on the page’s organic CTR, a search engine might move that page up in the rankings.
Key Features to Consider
When creating a good meta description, there are several key factors that should be considered:
While there is no such thing as the “right” length, having a length that’s optimized for searches is ideal. A meta description should be short, with a standard length of 155 to 160 characters. Longer descriptions tend to be cut off.
Depending on the situation, however, Google can display up to around 275 characters on SERPs. To maximize a meta description for searches, aside from its brevity, it should be relevant and provide value to be able to drive clicks to your site.
- Keyword Use
The meta description should be written in a way that encourages viewers to click on a URL. Aside from being relevant to the page, it should properly utilize keywords. Search engines will often use these keywords, highlighting them in SERPs and making it easier for your content to stand out.
Best Practices for Creating a Meta Description
There is no formula for writing a good meta description, but you can observe some of the best practices to optimize your content for SEO.
- Write good copy
A meta description acts as organic ad copy for your page. When writing a meta description, aim to make it unique, readable, and compelling enough for viewers to want to click through to your page. Use the active voice and make your copy as informative as possible without making it dull or difficult to read.
- Use a call to action
Your meta description is basically a piece of ad copy. To make it more effective, you can employ a call to action to persuade viewers to click through to your page.
- Avoid keyword stuffing
Keywords are important elements, and focusing on relevant keywords will increase the chances of a meta description to be used and highlighted by search engines.
Keyword stuffing, however, can be counterproductive. It’s a big SEO taboo and can negatively affect your ranking on SERPs.
Not having enough relevant keywords can also affect your SERP ranking. Lacking the right keywords can make your content less visible on SERPs.
- Keep it specific while using the appropriate text length
If you’re offering services or products for a particular niche, it’s best to be specific by including manufacturer information or SKU to help searchers look for a particular product or service they have in mind.
Make sure that your meta description falls around the optimal text length, that is around 155 to 160 characters. Make it too long and you risk it getting cut off on SERPs. Too short and you won’t be able to relay vital information that will make searchers want to click through to your page.
- Be consistent
Consistency is key when writing a meta description, so you need to come up with one that matches your page’s content. Misleading meta descriptions can increase your bounce rate and might lead to penalties by search engines.