Meta Description — What is it, How to Write it & FAQs

What is a Meta Description?

Meta description also called “meta attribute”, and “meta description tag” is an HTML element used by search engines to provide a short summary of a web page in the search engine result pages (SERPs), to let visitors know what the page is about before they click on it.

It can be used to influence click-through rate (CTR).

A good meta description should be unique and include keywords, keyword phrases, and related terms that are relevant to your topic.

Meta Description Example:

Meta description example

HTML Code Example

<meta name="description" content="This is the perfect example of a meta description, that shows up in the search engine results."/>

Meta Position

The meta description (meta name=”description”) tags always go inside the <head> element of the web page.

  <meta name="description" content="this is meta description tag position">

These are not meant to be shown on the web page itself however can be crawled by web crawl tools and bots.

Ideal Length

In 2020, the ideal length of a meta description for the top search engines are as follows:

  • Google: 158 Characters / 920 Pixels

  • Bing: 168 Characters / 980 Pixels

  • Yahoo: 168 Characters / 980 Pixels

The correct meta description length for mobiles is 120 characters which is 680 pixels.

Correct Format

It’s important to use precise verbiage with a clear definition of what the page does and how it works in your meta description. You should avoid overusing keywords or using long sentences.

Meta descriptions tags should be written for your website visitors informing them what the page is about, this should be written in an easy to understand language.

If you want to use a keyword in your description, make sure it flows naturally within the context of your sentence. If you can read the description out loud and it sounds good, then it’s probably a good meta description.

Search Engine Factors

Think of the search engine’s bot as a spider. The spider crawls along different parts of your website (the different pages), following links and all forms of content.

The same is true of your page’s meta description. A search engine’s spider will crawl along your page and crawl and add your meta description to its database. This is why you’ll want to add unique and precise meta description for every page that you want the search engine’s to index.

  • According to Google: We use the page’s descriptive metadata to understand what that page is about and how it is different from other pages. We also let sites provide a short description of the page, which we display in results when the page title isn’t specific enough.

  • According to Bing: Bing uses metadata in several ways. First, it helps us group results so that pages with similar descriptive metadata will generally surface together in our search results. Second, it helps us understand the content and context of the page to better understand the page’s relationship to other pages on the web. Finally, it helps us determine how relevant the page is to a given query.

Tips to Follow When Writing Your Meta Description

Include a meta description on every page of your site if possible. If your CMS (content management system) allows it, you can usually edit each page’s meta tag directly. If not, you can easily add a tagline to the header of your pages with the help of your developer.

Here are effective tips to following when writing your meta description.

Write concisely

Don’t overdo it with long sentences and paragraphs. If you’re not sure if your sentence structure is clear enough, then don’t bother adding more words to make it longer. Instead, try rewriting the paragraph to eliminate unnecessary words and phrases.

Be specific

Use only those keywords that are relevant to your website’s topic and describe them clearly in the description. For example, “New York City” on its own doesn’t count as a location keyword, but “New York City Museum” does.

Be creative

Don’t just use the same description for every page. Try to remember to change it up for every page. The best way to do this is to use your knowledge about your website and its content to make the most out of your 158 character count.

Be interesting

Make sure each of your descriptions is written in an interesting manner. This means avoiding industry-specific jargon and dry, technical language. Instead, try the active voice and an engaging tone.

Be unique

Always make sure each of your meta descriptions are unique to give Google the best idea of what each page contains. Naturally, use synonyms, alternative word orders, and other ways to differentiate your descriptions so that they provide a distinct impression for each page.

Be careful

Watch out for spam filters and other traps. Don’t overdo the use of any single keyword, and don’t use any that are irrelevant to the topic of a given page. Unique, engaging text is what separates the pros from the novices.

Be there

Include a meta description on every page of your site if possible. If your CMS (content management system) allows it, you can usually edit each page’s meta tag directly. If not, you can easily add a tagline to the header of your pages with the help of your developer.

FAQs about Meta Description

How long should my meta description be?

The ideal length for a meta description is 158 characters for desktop and 120 characters for mobile.

When it comes to SEO, characters matter. Plus, you don’t want to make your description too long to the point that it cuts off and looks ugly on mobile search results.

Why is my meta description not showing in the search results?

This could be a number of reasons. Google might’ve failed to crawl your page and gather your meta tags; or, Google may have read your meta tags but decided against displaying them for some reason. Most likely, however, your meta tags are correct but aren’t formatted correctly to be displayed in the SERP. Also, make sure you are only using one H1 tag per webpage and that it is not the same as your meta description.

What keywords to include in my meta description?

Choose three or four words that best describe your content and are most likely to be searched for. Do not stuff the meta description with your entire keyword list, as this can cause the meta description to become spammy and Google may penalize you.

Use keywords only once or a maximum of two times in the meta description.

Compile these keywords and analyze which keyword best fits your webpage content, now, create an easy to understand natural sentences with the keywords embedded in them.

Does meta description affect rankings?

The meta description does not have a direct effect on the website ranking, however, it does influence click-through rate (CTR), which is indeed a ranking factor.

Back in the early to mid-2000’s search engines heavily relied on meta descriptions and used them in the ranking process. This has since changed, but meta descriptions are still a good way to convince people to click your website.

Where’s the best place to add my meta description?

It’s best to add your META description to your website in the header section of the code. Simply look for a file called ‘header.php’ and then copy the code provided above into that file.

Alternatively, you can add it into your HTML editor within your website panels.

What are the maximum characters I can use for meta description?

There is no strict guideline on the number of characters you can use, but it should be 158 characters for desktops and 120 characters for mobile devices for it to appear correctly on the search engine results page. Anything over that and it will get cut off, so make sure you keep this in mind when writing your description.

Do you have to write meta descriptions?

No, you do not have to write a meta description, but you should try to make one because search engines put a lot of weight behind it.

However, if you do not write a meta description search engines will automatically pick a few sentences from the web page content and add use it as the meta description.

Doesn’t Google remove duplicate meta descriptions?

Google does not automatically remove meta descriptions if it considers them to be duplicates, instead it may decide not to show any meta description at all.

This can be bad for your SEO as search crawlers rely on meta descriptions to understand what a given web page is all about.

What goes into a good meta description?

Good meta descriptions incorporate a few key factors. They should be relevant to the content of the page, use high quality keywords and most importantly be descriptive. A good rule of thumb is to put yourself in the shoes of the searcher and try to convince them to click on your website. The best way to do this is to make your description believable and understandable.

What is the difference between a meta description and a title tag?

The title tag shows up in search results, and is clickable. The description shows up below the title tag in the search results and is also clickable. The difference between the two is that one is clickable within the SERP itself, while the other leads to a webpage outside of it.

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