What is a Meta Description?
A meta description is a brief introduction of the web page that you can find on SERPs, along with the URL and title.
It usually consists of a sentence or two that provides a glimpse into the content of the page and entices users to click on the link and visit the page.
Meta descriptions are an important aspect of on-page optimization as they can affect a page's click-through rate and can help search engines better understand the content of a page.
How does it appear in HTML?
The meta description is one of the HTML elements - they define a web page for a search engine so that the search engine structure it in a certain way.
Its purpose is to provide a brief description of the page's content to search engines, which helps them understand what the page is about and how to display it in SERPs.
The format of a meta description is as follows:
<meta name="description" content="A brief description of any given web page. It will define the content of the page.">
The "name" attribute is set to "description", which tells search engines that this is the meta description for the page.
The "content" attribute is where the actual description is entered, and it should be no longer than 155-160 characters to ensure that it fits within the space provided in SERPs.
Can you find it on social media?
Meta description also appears on social media posts when you share a link.
If you do not have a meta description, the social networking site will either make a description of the initial words of the content or show nothing.
Is meta description essential to SEO?
Google has stated that the meta description does not affect a page's ranking in search engine results pages.
According to John Mueller:
While meta descriptions are not directly used as ranking factors by search engines, they are still important for driving clicks, traffic, and potential conversions for a webpage.
If the meta description accurately and compellingly describes the content of the page, users are more likely to click on the link to visit the page, resulting in a higher CTR.
A higher CTR can indicate to search engines that the page is relevant and valuable to users, which can potentially lead to higher rankings in SERPs.
However, it is important to note that Google may also choose to create its own description for a page if it deems the meta description to be inappropriate or insufficient.
Therefore, while it is a good practice to include a well-written meta description, it is not guaranteed that it will always be displayed in SERPs.
Why would Google not choose your meta description?
Google can choose not to show your meta description in the SERPs. It is because the new description that Google creates may be more appealing to the users — or at least, that’s what Google thinks.
However, in most cases, Google will rewrite its meta description, usually taken from the webpage.
It will be totally different from the meta description that you choose for your webpage.
According to a study conducted in 2020, Google ignores meta descriptions for over 70% of web pages on the first page of search results.
This means that even if a webpage has a meta description, there is a high chance that Google will choose to display a different snippet of text from the page in search engine results pages.
Furthermore, usually, there are two main reasons why Google may choose not to show a webpage's meta description in search engine results pages:
Google thinks that your description is not relevant to your content.
It does not summarise the content.
Here is how Google gives recommendations for improving your meta descriptions:
What makes a good meta description?
Writing a good meta description is important for attracting clicks and potentially improving a page's CTR.
Here are some tips for creating an effective meta description:
Be careful about the length
There is no set rule for the length of a meta description. SEO experts may offer varying suggestions, but the general consensus is to keep it between 130 and 153 characters.
It is important to keep in mind that the length of a meta description is measured in pixels by Google, rather than characters.
The limit for desktops is approximately 960 pixels, while for mobile it is around 680 pixels. If the meta description exceeds these limits, Google will cut off the text.
Therefore, it is important to keep the description within these limits to ensure that it is fully displayed on search engine results pages.
Another critical point you should consider is that your description should be specific to a single web page. Repeating a single description for multiple pages cannot be a good strategy.
If you cannot write a unique description for every page, you can better leave it. Eventually, Google will do it by creating a relevant one.
Make it easy to understand
The meta description should be written for the users, with the goal of providing a clear and concise summary of the web page's content that is easy to understand and relevant to their search query.
The meta description should entice the user to click through to the webpage by highlighting the key benefits or information they will find on the page.
A key phrase is the main keyword or phrase for which you want to rank your website in search engine results pages.
Including your keyphrase in the meta description can help improve the relevance of the page for that particular search query and potentially improve its visibility in SERPs.
Using a call-to-action (CTA) in the meta description can be an effective way to encourage users to take a specific action, such as clicking through to the webpage or making a purchase.
By including a clear and compelling CTA in the meta description, you can help to guide the user's behaviour and encourage them to take the desired action.
For example, a CTA such as "Learn more", "Read now", or "Get started" can entice the user to click through to the webpage and engage with the content.
Make it concise
A concise meta-description is one that accurately summarizes the page's content in a clear and compelling way.
This ensures that the users can quickly and easily understand what the page is about and whether it is relevant to their search queries.
By using concise language and avoiding unnecessary words or phrases, you can make the meta description more engaging and easier to read.
Make it relevant
For creating an appropriate meta description, you must not forget relevance. The meta description should be relevant to your page’s content.
If you do not keep it relevant, it can increase the bounce rate - the percentage of the searchers or visitors that leave your website without clicking any other link on it.
Would you do it for every single page?
It can be difficult for you to write descriptions for multiple pages. For instance, if you have a big website, you cannot write a meta description for thousands of pages.
In such a situation, you can only write descriptions for those pages that are essential to your website. They may include the homepage, and those you think have vital data. Google Search Central has made it easy for you:
“If you don't have time to create a description for every single page, try to prioritise your content; at the very least, create a description for the critical URLs like your home page and popular pages.
A meta description is a brief introduction of a web page that appears on SERPs, along with the URL and title. It is an HTML element that defines a web page for search engines and also appears on social media posts.
While it does not directly affect a page's ranking, a good meta description can indirectly impact CTR, which can affect rankings.
To create an effective meta description, it is important to focus on creating a description that is specific, easy to understand, and relevant to the page's content.