A web page’s meta description is an important piece of information that provides context for search engines. These small snippets of text can help website crawlers understand what the content on a page is about. That being said, these descriptions are not always completely necessary. In fact, search engines like Google often write their own snippets for websites themselves. So when should you use them? In this article, we will learn when (and when not to) include meta descriptions for your web pages. We will also learn how to write effective meta descriptions. Lastly, we will discuss SEO meta description best practices.
What is a Meta Description?
A meta description is an HTML attribute that provides a brief summary of what content is on a web page. Search engines usually display the description underneath a site’s URL in search results. It is part of a website’s “meta-tags,” which includes things like the title, description, and robot tags. These meta tags are not visible on the website itself. However, you can find any website’s meta tags by right-clicking on the page and selecting “View source.”
It is important to keep in mind that meta descriptions do not factor directly into Google’s ranking factor algorithm. That being said, these descriptions do have the power to affect click through rate (CTR), which can have a positive impact on rankings. As a result, it’s important to optimize this section of your search listing. The text can be any length, but should usually be kept between 50-160 characters. The optimal length will depend on the individual goals you have for each listing.
Top Places to Use a Meta Description
Your website’s homepage is arguably the most important page on your website. As a result, it is critical that you give this page an effective meta description. Most homepages are meant to help users navigate their way around a site. This means that they are also more likely to contain images and design elements, rather than text. Any webpage that has fewer text elements is going to need a good description to help provide context. Lastly, if you have a website for a business or brand, the homepage is the best place for you to provide brand awareness directly on the search results page.
If you run an e-commerce website, your site’s second most important pages are going to be your product or service pages. These pages are very important because they will help to target potential customers who are in the consideration stage of the marketing funnel. This is why it is crucial to get these pages right. Spend a little extra time optimizing these pages and their descriptions to help increase potential conversions.
Have you noticed that some of your website’s content is growing much faster than the rest? When reviewing your published content and analytics, take some time to note which posts are performing the best. After you’ve found them, make sure to focus a little more attention on these high-performing posts. Improving the meta descriptions of old content will not help you to improve your site’s visibility. Instead, focus on improving pages that are already performing well for an extra boost in traffic.
Pages With Low Text Content
The last place that you will always want to include meta descriptions is for pages that have little to no text content. Many pages that have embedded content, like videos, apps, or widgets, lack enough descriptive text for Google to index their content. This is also true for resource pages because they usually only contain a list of links. It is important to always include a description for pages like these. The less text, the more likely it is that you’ll need to add a description snippet.
Top Reasons Not to Include a Meta Description
Search Result Appearance is Always Changing
The appearance of search results pages is constantly changing. For example, the suggested text limit for page descriptions has gone from under 160, up to 275, and back down to 165 characters. SEO best practices have had to evolve along with these changes. This means that descriptions written before or after these rule changes are no longer optimized. It takes a lot of effort to keep up with these changes, so you’re better off only optimizing meta descriptions for important pages.
Google often suggests giving every page on your site a description. However, they have also stated that these tags are not a key factor in determining or creating search result pages. If your company or marketing agency has limited resources and/or staff, you may have to prioritize the issues that you focus on. If this applies to you, it is probably not a good idea to spend a ton of time creating descriptions for every page. You are much better off spending time optimizing meta tags on your most important/successful pages.
Google Usually Writes its Own Description
Even if you provide a description, Google almost always writes its own description snippet anyway. In fact, one study by Yoast found that Google changed the provided snippet two-thirds of the time! Google often uses keywords from the first paragraph of the page to create the description. This means that you may be better off optimizing your first paragraph vs trying to write a description of your own.
Google’s Descriptions Are Often More Effective
Meta descriptions can be very difficult to get right. If they are not optimized correctly, the information you provide could just as easily drive users away from your page. For this reason, Google has stated that they often rewrite description snippets so that they can more accurately match the search keywords. In many cases, the snippet that Google creates for you has a much better chance of drawing in users who are looking for specific search query results.
Not All Pages Carry the Same Weight
Lastly, not all pages on your website are created equal. Large websites often have thousands of pages and only a few of them truly drive more traffic to their site. This means that it is usually a big waste of time to try to optimize a meta description for each page on a website. When you audit your website’s content, pay specific attention to high-ranking pages that are more likely to increase conversions.
How to Write Meta Descriptions
Now that you know when and when not to include descriptions for your web pages, let’s talk a bit about how to write meta descriptions. The right description snippets for each page will depend on the page’s content and your company’s overall goals. That being said, there are a few SEO meta description best practices you should be following.
Try to keep the length between 120 to 160 characters. The perfect length is always changing, but most snippets on Google are around this length. Don’t focus too much on this aspect, as there is no guarantee that Google will even display your copy. Since there is no way to guarantee what Google will display, use this length as a guideline, not a rule.
Include a Call-to-Action
You should always try to include an effective call-to-action in your description. Make sure that the text you provide is actionable and enticing. It should make users want to click to learn more. Provide details about the page’s content and urge visitors to visit your site for more information.
Use Your Focus Keyword
Just like with other aspects of SEO, keywords are very important here. Make sure that you are including your focus keyword in your meta description. If the search query keyword matches what is in your text, Google will be more inclined to include your pages in search results.
Match Your Page’s Content
Your description should always match the content of your page. If you try to use a description that has nothing to do with your content to try to bring in traffic, it will usually backfire. This can also decrease your site’s authority, which is a huge part of ranking factors for Google.
Keep It Unique
Lastly, you should know that you want to make sure each description you use is unique. Using the same description for all pages on your website will provide a poor user experience and hurt your chances of ranking higher in search results. If you are spending the time to optimize descriptions for important pages, make sure that each one is unique and accurately reflects the page’s content.
Knowing When to Use Meta Descriptions for Better SEO
Meta descriptions are an often overlooked part of the SEO process. However, there are many benefits to using them for your site’s most important pages. In fact, meta descriptions are an important part of any well-rounded SEO strategy. To continue optimizing your website, consider scheduling an SEO analysis. The expert team at SEO Design Chicago can look over every aspect of your website and provide feedback to help you develop your best strategy.
- What is a meta description?
- What pages should have meta descriptions?
- When should I not use a meta description?
- Does Google use meta descriptions as a ranking factor?
- How can I write an effective meta description?