The meta description is a snippet, an HTML tag, that summarizes the content of a page. Search engines display the meta description in search results usually when the search term is contained in the description. Optimizing the meta description is a very important aspect of on-page SEO.
- What does a meta description do?
- Characteristics of a good meta description
- Examples of a good meta description
- Where do I start, I have so many pages?
- Solving meta descriptions
What does a meta description do?
The meta description is an HTML tag, which looks like this in HTML:
The function of the meta description (or meta descriptions) for your page is simple: its main purpose is get the Google visitor to click on your link. In other words, meta descriptions are for generating clicks through search engines.
Search engines say there is no ranking benefit in the meta description - they do not use it in their ranking algorithms. There is an indirect benefit: Google uses the click-through-rate (CTR) as a way of determining whether or not you are a good result.
If more people click on your result then you are expected to be relevant, search engines will improve your position. That's why optimizing the meta description is so important, as well as optimizing your titles.
Read too: "Google updates and SEO professionals“
Characteristics of a good meta description
All articles on meta descriptions will suggest some of these good practices, but combined all of these features make more sense:
1. Must be between 150 and 170 characters
There is no exact formula or number for meta descriptions. Depending on how Google triggers your search, the description results may differ. Google can, for example, add the date to an article, and this will reduce the number of characters displayed. Google had changed the length of the snippets in the search results to 320 characters some time ago but went back. The SEO plugin from Yoast has a feature that evaluates the length of the meta description and informs if it is within the recommended range.
2. Must be actionable, in an active voice
Of course you should. If you consider the meta description to be an invitation to the page, you cannot make it “A mixed metaphor that describes a non-existent, but implicitly high level of qualification.” This is a tiring description. Let's get back to that with some examples below.
3. Must include a call-to-action
“Hello, we have such and such a new product, and you will want it. more about! ” This goes beyond the active voice, but I wanted to emphasize. It is your sales text, where your product is the page that is linked to, not the product within it. Invitations like know more, buy now and free trial they fit well.
4. Can contain structured content
If you have a computer product for example, focusing on technical aspects of the product may be a good idea. Manufacturer, SKU, price, things like that. If the visitor is specifically looking for that product, we may not have to convince him. Things like the price will generate the click action. Note that you can, of course, use rich snippets for this in the same way.
5. Must represent the content
This is important. Google identifies meta descriptions that deceive the visitor. It can even penalize the website that creates the false meta description. In addition, it will increase the bounce rate and it is simply a bad idea to do so. You must make sure that your meta description matches the content presented on the page.
6. Must contain the keyword in focus
If the searched keyword is found in the meta description, Google is more likely to use this meta description and highlight the search term in the search results. This will give the link even more prominence.
7. The meta description must be unique
If your meta description is duplicated, the user experience on Google will be worse. Although the title of the pages may vary, all pages look the same if the descriptions are the same. If you intentionally want or need to use a duplicate meta description, it is best to leave the description blank and let Google choose a snippet of the page containing the keyword used in the search. Visit Google Search Console> HTML enhancements or use software like Screaming Frog SEO Spider to check for duplicate meta descriptions.
Examples of a good meta description
In preparation for this article, I checked out some of the articles that mention meta descriptions. I found a lot of theory but few examples. I imagine that examples make it easier for you to understand and build the appropriate meta description. Taking into account the characteristics mentioned above, let's go to the examples.
The proper length
Google may show different text
Using active voice
Using a call-to-action
Including structured content
Using the keyword
Where do I start, I have so many pages?
Did you feel the urge to change all meta descriptions on your site after reading this article?
This can be a burden, with all the pages you have. And where will you find the time for that? THE Google responds:
If you don't have time to create a description for each page, try to prioritize its content: At the very least, create a description for your critical pages like your home and popular pages.
Start from there. And remember to optimize all your meta descriptions from now on.
Solving meta descriptions
I'm sure you may have more questions or problems, but here are two common problems:
1. My meta description is not showing
Google probably made one for you, perhaps it saw that your meta description did not adequately represent the content of the page, or was duplicated, for example.
2. I want to use another meta description for sharing on social networks
Is your site on WordPress? Do you use Yoast's SEO plugin? In this case: check the social tab when editing the page. In the premium version of the plugin, you still have the option to preview the share preview! If you don't use the plugin, add OpenGraph tags or Twitter Cards to your website and use the description you want.
Keep reading: “The definitive guide to content SEO”
Keep reading: “The definitive guide to WordPress SEO”