My last post was about title tags. In it, I suggest many people don’t know what title tags are or what they do. If I was right, I reckon the same applies to meta descriptions.

What is a meta description?

According to Wikipedia, metadata is “data about data.” And that’s what a meta description is: data about a web page. You can see Meta descriptions on search engine results pages (SERPs), just below the title tags. Here’s an example:

An example of meta descriptions in a SERP

What does a meta description do?Click To Tweet

A meta description is advertising copy. Its job is to promote a web page. When you think about it, a good meta description is pretty important — being displayed in SERPs doesn’t guarantee a web page click-throughs. So, a meta description must be compelling, and like any good piece of advertising copy, include a call to action.

Google says meta descriptions don’t affect search results. However, keywords are still important. This is because Google bolds any searched keywords in a meta description, therefore, increasing the likelihood of getting click-throughs. See the bolded laundry products in the previous screenshot.

A meta description is advertising copy. Its job is to promote a web page.

Is it true meta descriptions have no effect on search results?

Well, the answer is yes and no. It is true Google’s algorithm isn’t affected directly by meta descriptions. However, it is affected by user behaviour, which meta descriptions influence. So, the effect is indirect. Well-known blogger Neil Patel explains this well in his post.

What if you have no meta description?

If you don’t write a meta description, Google will pull text from the first paragraph of your web page. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the chances are this text won’t be as compelling as a carefully-crafted meta description.

How long should a meta description be?

Google allows about 920 pixels for meta descriptions, which is 150 to 160 characters including spaces. The number of characters varies because some characters take more space than others. It pays to be aware of this restriction because if your meta description is too long, it will be cut short and its effectiveness diminished.

It’s best to avoid non-alphanumeric characters in meta descriptions. If you don’t, your descriptions will be cut short. If you must include quotation marks, use single instead of double.

How to load meta descriptions on your website

If you have a content managed website, loading meta descriptions should be easy. I have a WordPress site that has the All in one SEO Pack plug in. The following screenshot shows the back end of my web site.

How to write effective meta descriptions for your website

5 tips for writing meta descriptions:

  1. Include a solution or benefit. What benefit will the reader receive by visiting your web page?
  2. Tell the reader what you want them to do. In most cases that will be to visit the web page. However, if you’ve included a phone number, you may want them to just call you.
  3. Be honest. You don’t want people visiting your website and then leaving disappointed.
  4. Include keywords. Remember, though, that the human reader always comes first. Include keywords but not at the expense of the copy.
  5. Make them unique. Don’t duplicate your meta descriptions — Google will punish you. Make sure every meta description is unique and relevant for each page.

What do you think? If you found this useful, please subscribe to my blog. I welcome your comments.

Related posts:

What are title tags and why are they important?

4 things to consider when writing web content

A tale of two websites: One performs and one does not

A guideline to successful content writing

  1. Good points all of them Andrew, its very often these small technical details that trip up otherwise very good websites. And it’s not just any copy that will do for a meta description either – always best left to the professionals like yourself.

  2. Hi Andrew,

    Great post on meta description indeed!

    Just like you said meta description should be compelling because it increases a blog’s CTR.

    One plugin that does the work for adding meta description is the all-in-one SEO by yoast and I see you’ve mentioned that.

    As for me before I click on a link I read the meta description to see which will give me answers to what am searching for and I guess it’s same for most people right?

    Thanks for sharing.

    Have a great day!

    1. Hi Kora

      A web page’s title tag and meta description is quite like the labeling on a product in a supermarket. So, it needs to tell the reader exactly what the page is all about; it should also be persuasive.

      Thanks for your feedback.

      Andrew

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