What Are Meta Descriptions? A Comprehensive Guide

Ever tried summarizing a long story in 2 sentences? That’s what meta descriptions do. They summarize your blog post or web page content in less than 160 characters. In this article, we will understand what are meta descriptions, why they’re important, and the characteristics of a good meta description.

What is a Meta Description?

A meta description is a short text snippet to summarize the content of your web page. It gives a brief summary of the contents of the web page and appears alongside the page’s URL in the search results. The ideal length of a meta description is between 155 and 160 characters.

What are Meta Tags?

Meta tags are text snippets that give important information to describe the content of a page. They appear on the page’s source code or at the head of the page and are used by search engines to determine what the webpage is all about. They use meta tags to get additional information about the page for ranking purposes and to show snippets in the search results.

Unlike tags, meta tags can’t be seen by users since they are only visible to search engines.

Meta Tags and SEO

Meta tags are crucial for SEO ranking. However, not all meta tags can help with SEO rankings. Some of the good meta tags include:

  • Meta content type– This meta tag describes the character set for your webpage.
  • Title– Title is an important meta tag that is placed at the top of the browser.
  • Meta description-This tag is used to describe the page, and searchers use it to determine whether they will click on your results or not. However, it does not influence rankings.
  • Viewport– This tag enables you to specify the viewpoint for an enhanced mobile experience.
  • Social meta tags– These are Twitter and OpenGraph tags. You can go without them.
  • Robots-Robot tags show search engine crawlers what they ought to do with the page. However, you don’t need to have robot meta tags.

Why Should You Use Meta Descriptions?

There are several reasons for incorporating meta descriptions in your web pages. Let’s review the following benefits that you can enjoy by using meta descriptions:

Meta descriptions increase clickthroughs

A page with a customer-centric meta description is more likely to get clicked on in search results than one which is not.Therefore, you should be very strategic with the meta description of your page and let your visitors know that it provides the search intent for your keyword.

Meta descriptions make your website look better on SERPs

Strategic and more defined meta descriptions will surely make your site look better on the search engine results. To ensure this, only use relevant information that will help you convey your message. Avoid unnecessary information as search engines could eliminate them, thereby affecting your ranking.

Meta description act as organic text ads

Search engines usually present meta descriptions as summaries of the page should your ad rank for a keyword. It allows marketers to promote the page which can improve their performance. Therefore, a well-crafted description can act as an ad text to improve your click-through rate in organic search results.

Meta descriptions improve search ranking

As mentioned earlier, meta descriptions increase click-through rates. An increase in click-through rates will alert search engines, thus improving the authority of your page. As a result, your page’s search ranking in search results will improve. However, you should note that meta descriptions alone will not boost your page’s ranking.

Meta descriptions can be a part of a larger rich snippet plan

Since search engine results are not limited to displaying only a description and a title, you can add other tags to make your description more appealing. Other schema or tags can add rich snippets like icons or images to help you find pages for product information or reviews.

Characteristics of a Good Meta Description

There are several things that you should consider when writing a meta description to make it effective. Here are some characteristics you want to consider:

Character count below 155 characters

The length of a good meta description should not be longer than 155 characters. Therefore, it should be your goal to keep it short and cleverly concise.

Make it actionable

Another tip is to use an active and actionable voice that addresses the users directly. This allows them to know what to expect when they click on the link.

Include call-to-action

It is essential to use meta descriptions as a tool for advertising your web page. This means including a call-to-action that will make searchers want to click on your page.

Use focus keywords

When writing meta descriptions, make sure that you include the most important keywords of your webpage. Google may highlight the search keyword and use it in the search results.

Add data and specifications

It’s always a great idea to include specifications and data of your product. This can include things like SKU, manufacture, price, etc.

Summarize the page content

In just 155 characters, make sure that you write a description of your page’s content. Summarize the content and tell your users what to expect.

Make it readable

A good meta description should be readable and less spammy. Moreover, your content should read in a natural way and look human-written. Additionally, you must avoid keyword stuffing.

Should be specific

Your page’s meta description should be specific and can match the details of your page’s content. Avoid vague information at all cost, and only provide the right details.

Include numbers, symbols and special characters

Your page will rank better if the description contains numbers, symbols, and special characters. These elements enhance customer engagement and can drive customers to your page.

Add value proposition

Value propositions explain the benefits that readers can get by clicking on the link. This can include the value they will get and the problems they will solve. The value proposition will give them a reason to click on the link.

Utilize different rich snippets for Twitter and Facebook

If you are using social media platforms, you can use tools like Yoast’s SEO plugin to customize the page data. These tools come in handy if you don’t want to use the social media page’s meta description for your featured post.

Meta Description Mistakes to Avoid

If you want users to click on your link and increase CTR, traffic, and conversions, then it’s important to avoid the following meta description mistakes:

Duplicate meta descriptions

A common mistake when writing meta descriptions is using the same description for all pages. The meta descriptions for each of your web pages should be unique. Otherwise, duplicate descriptions can hamper the user experience and be detrimental to your content marketing efforts. Alternatively, you can omit including descriptions for every page.

Being over-cautious about character count

Meta descriptions are not a Google ranking factor, so you should not put a lot of focus on the character count. Just ensure that the description provides value to users and drives click for your page. Besides, Google will truncate long descriptions and add relevant information to short descriptions.

Not optimizing for rich snippets

Using rich snippets in your meta description will add elements to enhance its quality. Consequently, optimizing for rich snippets will make your meta description to stand out from other descriptions. There are several schema markups that you can use to do this including product information, review, offer, and creative work.

Writing boring and non-compelling copy

If you want your page to stand out from the competition, use creative and interesting copy to reach your audience. Keep it clear, short, and concise. The content should be relevant and contains information about the page. An impressive copy will increase your traffic, conversions, and CTR.

Not being customer-centric

Something else to avoid is creating a meta description that is not centered on your customers. A good meta description should tell them what the page is offering and why they should visit it. Meanwhile, the meta description should be centered on the customer and seek to address their needs.

Avoiding keywords

If you want your meta description to be effective, then you should include relevant keywords. Descriptions with keywords relevant to the page’s content have a better chance of ranking higher in search results pages than those that don’t.

Using quotation marks

There are various characters used in meta descriptions that are likely to break the HTML coding. This is essential to keep in mind since meta descriptions are contained in HTML. An example of such character is the double quotation marks (“Y”).  If you must use quotation marks, use the single quotation mark (‘Y’) instead.

Using passive language

Give your visitors a reason to click on your link by using active voice in descriptions. Passive voice should be avoided because it shows that the subject is being acted upon, and this can be boring. Active voice will helpengage your readers and grab their attention.

Misleading the audience

While you want your readers to click on your link, you must not use misleading meta descriptions. You must not use misleading content, incorrect statements,or outrageous claims just to get them to click. You should also avoid using unrelated and uncompelling content.

Avoiding the HTML table

If your website provides direct answer queries to searchers, then it is only right that you provide HTML tables. HTML tables come in handy in organizing information and making it universally accessible. Besides, HTML tables are convenient for users because they give direct answers.

Examples of Good Meta Descriptions

You only need to use 160 characters to create a great meta description for your website. But how can you create an effective and well-written description? Here are some 5 examples of meta descriptions to inspire you:

Example 1: Lonely Planet

This meta description from Lonely Planet helps sell the brand and satisfy what searchers are looking for. The question makes the description personal and engaging. Plus, the site link below the description helps with specific searches.

Example 2: Travel Yosemite

The Travel Yosemite meta description is straightforward, accurate, and clear. Within the meta description length limit, this description clearly explains what the website does. It also tells what visitors can expect upon clicking the link.

Example 3: Hello Fresh

This meta description uses the search term “recipe box subscription”. It is unique and uses short phrases that are divided by the checkbox emoji. With this visually appealing approach, Hello Fresh has included a lot of information about their offering.

Example 4: LinkedIn

The first sentence of LinkedIn’s meta description provides visitors with valuable information about the page and all LinkedIn business pages. It also provides a call-to-action to visitors explaining to them what they will get when they click the link.

Example 5: Next for Men’s Formalwear

Men’s formalwear starts its meta description by giving a call-to-action. Although this description is a bit blunt, it still gives visitors valuable information about their brand offering and what they can expect when they make their order.

Example 6: Reddit

The Reddit meta description includes the mantra of the company in the first sentence. The rest of the sentence clearly explains what the company offers. The description also ends with the word “you”, giving it a personal touch.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

There are several questions about meta descriptions that most people ask. They’re as follows:

1. Why are meta descriptions important?


Although meta descriptions do not factor into search rankings, they are still important for two reasons. First, they persuade users to click on your page. And secondly, they can affect clickthrough rate which can improve your rankings indirectly.


2. What is a meta title and description?


Meta descriptions and title tags are bits of HTML code that are placed on the header of web pages. They usually appear when the web pages appear in search engine results. Basically, they help search engines understand a page’s contents.


3. What is the ideal length of a meta description?


The optimal length for meta descriptions will depend on the situation, your goal, and the message you want to convey. However, the ideal meta description length is 155 characters. In most cases, Google shortens snippets to around 155-160 characters.


4. What is the purpose of meta tags?


A meta tag is an HTML element that contains data about a webpage. A meta tag is important because it results in command and explains how elements of a web page should be structured.


5. Do you need a meta description for every page?


You don’t need to include a meta description in all of your web pages. Nonetheless, Google recommends adding a meta description for every page. However, descriptions included in each page should be unique and match the content of the specific page.


6. Do meta description impact search rankings?


No, meta descriptions do not affect search engine rankings as was announced by Google in 2009. Nonetheless, you should know that meta descriptions have an impact on clickthrough rates (CTRs) which can result in the better ranking of a page.


7. What is a meta description example?


There are several meta description examples that can inspire you to come up with well-written descriptions. Here is an example of a good meta description:


8. What should I write in the meta description?


Meta descriptions should contain information that will prompt a user to click on your website. The description should be short and have premium features, focus keywords, as well as a call-to-action that tells people what to do.

Conclusion

Meta descriptions don’t impact your organic search ranking, but they can influence a searcher’s decision to click-through. A well written meta description can result in a click-through and a boost in your web traffic. So, it is important to incorporate quality, descriptive, and relevant meta descriptions on every web page.

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