What is meta description?
Meta description is part of the HTML code that describes what the website is about. It usually consists of one or two appealing sentences.
The meta description is included in the SERP snippet of the website which makes it a very important call-to-action element that can increase the CTR and improve UX of the website.
HTML example of the meta description:
<head> <meta name="description" content="Your unique meta description."> </head>
Meta description length
The general rule of the optimal length is too keep the text between 120-150 characters which is up to 920px in desktop search results.
The optimal meta description length may change in time. That’s because Google optimizes the appearance of search results (SERP) and tests new SERP features. For example, in 2017, it was alright to write meta descriptions consisting of up to 300 characters.
Keep in mind that Google will trim the description if it’s too long.
Meta description length check
You can test the length and appearance of the meta description in many WordPress plugins. One of them is the Yoast SEO.
We recommend testing various versions before publishing the final version (you can always change it in the future).
Google generates meta descriptions
Google can generate a different description in two cases:
- If you haven’t set any meta description
- To better match the search query
The first scenario is obvious, but what if Google changes a well-prepared piece of copy that should motivate people to click on your website in the search results?
It happens in situations when the algorithm decides to generate the meta description from the content on the website to match the search query even more. It also may be a signal that your copy isn’t descriptive enough.
From what we usually see, the generated text by Google tends to be longer compared to the one in the HTML code.
Why is meta description important?
1. It influences CTR (click through rate)
The meta description is one of the three basic elements of each website that is in the SERP. That makes it extremely important because this limited space must persuade the internet user to click on your website. Keep it catchy and descriptive as much as possible.
2. It’s part of on-page SEO
Using keywords in the meta description will not directly improve your organic rankings as it used to in the past. On the other hand, do not skip the keyword because the main goal is to clearly state what is the website about. That’s why you should aim for the synergy of SEO and UX.
Creating a well-optimized description remains one of the key on-page SEO tasks, but keep in mind that search engines may not use it in some cases.
3. It determines the SERP presence
As mentioned above, meta description forms the SERP presence of the website. Therefore it influences the CTR.
In case it’s generated by Google, you can’t do anything, but the key is to write a meta description that looks good.
4. It’s visible on social networks
Similarly to tile tags, social networks display the meta description. Facebook or Twitter trim it as they show a shorter portion of the copy compared to Google Search.
We recommend writing unique descriptions for these social networks by using the following two lines of code:
<meta property="og:description" content="Your fancy description for Facebook" />
<meta name="twitter:description" content="Your fancy description for Twitter" />
How to write a good meta description
Writing a good meta description requires a combination of SEO, marketing, a bit of sales and psychology thinking. These are 10 of the most important strategies for writing good descriptions.
1. Stick to the optimal length
Keeping the meta description within 120-150 characters should ensure that it will be displayed correctly in the SERP. Always test various versions in preview tools such as SEOmofo to make sure your unique piece of content will be correctly shown.
2. Write a unique copy for each page
Each page simply must have a unique meta description. If there are any duplicates on your website, you will find them in the Search Console.
Having duplicate meta descriptions is not a good SEO practice. However, it can easily happen on websites with rich structure, e.g. e-commerce.
3. Focus on local SEO
If you target specific geographical areas, it’s a good idea to bring attention to it. If you run a pizza delivery in Boston, include it in the meta description.
Focusing on local SEO not only boosts the rankings for local searches. It also leads to engaged website traffic.
4. Do not over-optimize
Filling up the description with a bunch of keywords will not improve your rankings. Use only the main keyword and write naturally. Over-optimized copy looks bad. Focus on CTA and providing clear information instead.
5. Distinguish yourself from the others
Listing the general features of your product is alright, but it will not catch much attention. Use this opportunity to write a unique description that stands out from the crowd.
Use numbers, catchy words or phrases, CTAs such “free”. Keep it in active voice as it is an invitation to your website.
6. Beware of keyword cannibalization
Keyword cannibalization is a common SEO mistake. You should select only one main keyword per page. The same thing applies when writing the meta description.
If a user types a search query “homemade pizza recipe”, they are not looking for “homemade muffin recipe”, are they? Optimizing for more than one main keyword is not a good idea. The meta description should follow the same trend.
7. Provide descriptive copy with added value
Do you have a specific competitive advantage? Promote it. Providing a clear description is about including the main focus keyword with additional information that will make people click on your website in the SERP.
If the main focus keyword matches with the search query, Google usually highlights it. It’s just another psychological advantage for you.
8. Connect it with the website content
A clear connection between meta tags and content on the website is a matter of common sense. Make sure the description matches the content on the page. It improves the UX and SEO alike.
Meta description stands between a click or nothing at the very beginning. Don’t try to fool the potential website visitors with free products when you don’t offer any or with tasty Italian pasta recipes while promoting a food delivery company.
9. Use structured data
Structured data (Schema.org) improves the readability and presence of your website in search results. Elements such as the business type, product and pricing, contact information, rating or upcoming events can boost the CTR.
10. Check your competitors
Spying on competitors will give you a lot of ideas to try on your own website. Be inspired by the meta descriptions of websites that rank on the highest positions in the SERP.
Since they can be generated by Google, it’s good to check the HTML code. Alternatively, you can use the easier option – SEO extensions.