Meta Descriptions

Meta tags describe content on a particular web page.

Meta tags are one of the main ways webmasters can provide search engines with information about their websites. Meta tags are added to the <head> section of your HTML webpage and usually look like this:

<meta name=”description” content=”A description of the page” />The meta tag provides a short description of the page. In some situations this description is used as a snippet shown in the search engine results pages.

Google has a help section where you can find out more:

Checking a meta tag/description is correct

Meta descriptions are a small snippet of text up to 155 characters – a tag in HTML – which summarises a page’s content. Search engines show the meta description in search results mostly when the searched-for phrase is within the page description.

Optimising meta tag length

Meta descriptions can be any length, but Google often truncate snippets. It’s best to keep meta descriptions to be as descriptive as possible. Meta descriptions between 50–300 characters. The optimal length depends on what you are trying to achieve. Your primary goal should be to provide value and increase your click through rate.

Optimal format

Webmasters can optimise click through rate (CTR) to increase the likelihood of visitors visiting from the search engine results pages (SERPs) are extremely important in gaining user click-through from SERPs. These descriptions are a great way to grab potential searchers before they get to your website. It’s important

A page’s meta description should include the main keyword and be engaging to read. Often call to actions are used in meta descriptions. Create a compelling description that a searcher will want to click. It should be directly relevant to the page it describes, and unique from the descriptions for other pages.

Ranking Factor

Google have announced previous that neither meta descriptions or meta keywords are ranking factors when it comes to Google search.

Meta descriptions can however impact a page’s CTR (click-through-rate) on Google which can positively impact a page’s ability to rank.

Increasing the volume of clicks to your website.

Ad copy

The meta description tag is essentially an advert online. It draws readers to a website from the search engine results pages (SERP), and thus is an integral and important part of search engine marketing.

Creating a readable, compelling description using relevant keywords can improve the click-through rate for a webpage. To maximise click-through rates on search engine result pages, it’s important to note that Google and other search engines bold keywords in the description when they match search queries. This bold text can draw the eyes of searchers, so you should match your descriptions to search terms as closely as possible.

Meta Description written as ad copy

It’s always good practice to avoid duplicate meta description tags.

Website crawlers like Screaming Frog can identify whether there are duplicate meta descriptions. The SEO tool will crawl your pages and identify the missing meta descriptions per page.

What not to do with meta tags

It’s best practice to remove all non-alphanumeric characters from your website’s meta descriptions.

If the web page is targeting longer-tail website traffic it can sometimes be good to allow search engines to populate a meta description themselves. When search engines pull a meta description, they always display the keywords and surrounding phrases that the user has searched for. If a webmaster writes a meta description in the website code, what they choose to write may detract from the relevance the search engines make naturally. This practice is only really good for inner pages as the missing meta description pages may actually be flagged in Google Search Console.

Social media websites such as Linkedin often use a page’s meta description tag as the description which appears when the page is shared on their sites. Without this information the social media websites will generally use the first text they can find. Depending on the first text on your page, the user experience may be a problem, which we all know is a ranking factor.

Creating relevant meta descriptions

Googlebot uses the <meta> description tag from a page to generate search results snippets, if the page gives website visitors a more accurate description than from the on-page content.

A meta description tag should engage potential website visitors and provide a relevant summary of what each page is about. These meta descriptions are a statement which helps the user understand that the page is exactly what they’re looking for. There is no limit on the length of a meta description, but the search result snippets are truncated as needed, typically to fit the device being used e.g. mobile/tablet/desktop.

Make sure that every page on your site has a meta description. This is a task a SEO company should do for you.

It’s best practice to craft unique meta descriptions for each pages. Duplicated meta descriptions on every page of a website aren’t useful when individual pages appear in the SERPs. If Googlebot finds duplicate meta tags across your website the this may count towards your rank position and the way that they display your title.

It’s always recommended to create meta descriptions which describe the relevant web page. Google also suggest that you use site-level descriptions on the main home page, and page-level descriptions on other pages.

How to optimise meta tags

The meta description can include any information about the page, for example reviews, cake recipes. For example, an article, for example, may list the author, date of publication or author.

Product pages may include key bits of information – colour, price, brand etc.

A strong meta description can display all this data together in optimal format.

For example, the following meta description provides detailed information about a book.

<meta name=”Description” content=”Written by Smarter Digital Marketing, Illustrated by B. Lonsdale, Price: £119.99, Length: 664 pages”>

As you can see in the example above, the information is clearly tagged and separated.

Good descriptions are human-readable and include relevant information.

Using Keywords in Your Meta Tags

It’s not recommended to include a long list of keywords on web page which doesn’t give website visitors a clear idea of the page content, and are less likely to be displayed in place of a normal snippet.

Finally, site owners should ensure that your meta descriptions are descriptive. Because the meta descriptions aren’t displayed in the pages the user sees, it is too easy to not optimise the meta tags, however, high-quality descriptions will be displayed in the SERPs, and aid in improving the quality and quantity of your search traffic.

Frequently asked questions

Each meta description should be 155 characters long, after this length Google will truncate the text.

A call to action, some engaging & descriptive text and the brand name may be included in a meta description. Remember this is the description you see on the search results page, prior to clicking through to the website.

Some sources say meta descriptions aren’t a ranking factor. We recommend using unique meta descriptions per page to engage your potential visitors and satisfy major search engines.

Major search search engines, like Google, will know that the meta description is empty, which may impact on your campaign’s success.

In line with Google’s content quality guidelines, you should write unique, engaging and natural descriptions per page.

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