Meta descriptions are an important aspect of SEO. Knowing how to use them can improve the results of your digital marketing efforts, especially if your website already has good SEO content.
In this article, you’ll learn why good meta descriptions matter for SEO, and you’ll find useful guidelines to help you write powerful meta descriptions.
What Is A Meta Description?
A meta description is an HTML element that provides search engines with a short description of a page’s content. Essentially, a meta description tells bots, spiders, and users what a web page is about. It’s useful to think about meta descriptions as a summary of the central topic in a web page.
Meta descriptions are placed at the top of the page within the “head” element.
The meta description element is an important factor in SEO, as these short paragraphs carry huge informational value. Although they’re not a ranking factor per se, they can have a direct impact on overall website positioning. This is because:
- They’re a form of advertising what a page is about.
- They affect user behaviour. Web users use the meta description to decide whether to click on a link or not.
Meta descriptions carry huge informational value and can determine user behaviour.
But for meta descriptions to have a positive SEO impact, they need to be written following certain guidelines. We will look into these guidelines next, starting with optimal length.
How Long Should A Meta Description Be?
The meta description length is measured in characters instead of words. The optimal length of a meta description is anything between 150 and 160 characters, including spaces.
This doesn’t mean that a meta description cannot be longer than 160 characters. However, if it exceeds the recommended length it will not be fully displayed in search result pages. Instead, text beyond the 160-character threshold will be truncated (cut off) and won’t be visible to users.
Search engines like Google or DuckDuckGo also measure meta description length in pixels. In 2021, the optimal pixel length was anything between 430 and 920 pixels.
Key Characteristics Of A Good Meta Description
To make sure meta descriptions do their job, it’s important to be familiar with meta description best practices.
1. They Should Be Truthful And Accurate
First of all, a meta description must offer an accurate description of the content on a page. When writing meta descriptions, avoid creating “false expectations” only to get users to click on a page. Although a good meta description moves users to click through, it should also provide value to users.
A good meta description should provide value to users.
2. They Should Be Unique
Avoid copy-pasting the same meta description on different pages of the same website. It may be tempting to duplicate meta descriptions to save time, but this can hurt your SEO.
This is because Googlebot uses meta descriptions to understand what’s the central topic of a page. Once they know this, they can list the page in search results. If different pages in the same website have the same meta description, a Googlebot will have a hard time deciding which page should be listed, if any.
3. They Should Be Rich And Compelling
Because of their informational and marketing value, meta descriptions should include rich content that highlights benefits and attracts the reader’s attention. If you’re selling a product or service, make sure the meta description covers the most useful or sought-after features.
You should create the most compelling description possible. Remember that meta descriptions are the first thing web users see on the search results page. So make the 160-character limit count!
4. They Should Include A Call To Action
A compelling meta description will also be actionable. This means that it should prompt the user to do something, like click through to your page. Build a sense of urgency in the meta description and end it with a powerful call to action.
5. Use Keywords
Meta descriptions are prime real estate on the web, and keywords can funnel people’s attention towards it. Make sure each meta description includes your primary keyword or keyphrase. And remember that keywords must flow naturally. Stuffing keywords in a meta description won’t get you more visibility.
6. Make Them Mobile-Friendly
We’ve already said that Google also measures meta description length in pixels. Mobile device screens are smaller than desktop displays, so if most of your traffic comes from mobile, keep their length to 680 pixels or 120 characters.
7. Pay Attention To Readability
Avoid writing a meta description using only uppercase – this won’t necessarily get you more attention. Always respect grammar and punctuation rules so the text is easier to read. Also, avoid using passive voice. You can include dashes (-) and pipes (|) if they help readability.
8. Avoid Special Characters
It’s better to avoid special characters like trademark (™) stars (☆), copyright (©). Before adding them, ask yourself if they add any informational value. If they don’t, leave them out.
You should also avoid double quotation marks because Google interprets them as an instruction to truncate the text.
Why Isn’t Google Using My Meta Description?
Sometimes, Google will not display the meta description you created. This can happen if Google doesn’t think the meta description is relevant to user queries. If this happens, the search engine will skip the meta description provided in the head element and will instead select a chunk of text taken from the page in question.
Generally speaking, this is nothing to worry about as long as the snippet used by Google reflects the page content. However, if this happens with more than 1 or 2 pages, you may want to rewrite your meta descriptions.
Good meta descriptions can increase your online visibility and generate traffic to your website. Use the guidelines listed in this article to write powerful meta descriptions that are valuable and compelling. And don’t forget that there are other ways of making your business stand out online.
For some further SEO reading, check out these Marketing.com.au articles:
- 5 Ways to Increase Visibility and Engagement for Your Online Brand
- Why You Need to Be Concerned about the Drop in Click Through Rates
- Local SEO Guide for Growing Your Business
- 10 Proven Ways to Earn Links to Your Website
- Local SEO Guide for Growing Your Business
- How to Perform a Local SEO Audit All By Yourself
- Strategies To Maximise The Effectiveness Of Backlinks
- Local SEO Google My Business Mistakes