What are Meta Descriptions
Let’s first understand what exactly is a meta description tag?
They are small pieces of HTML that describe the content of the web page. Their main purpose is to encourage browsers to click-through to the web page to view more information.
As of September of 2009, Google announced that meta descriptions will not be a ranking factor in search results. So, if they don’t have a direct impact on SEO anymore, why are we bothering to talk about them in this blog post?
Well, one thing we do know that can positively affect page ranking, is Click-Through-Rate (CTA). Therefore, since meta descriptions’ primary purpose is just that, they are still considered important attributes to your website and its SEO.
Meta description example
As you can see below, highlighted in purple. Meta descriptions are positioned below the URL and page title on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
As we can clearly see in this example, Pair Creative is a graphic and web design company in Cumbria. So their meta description explains this to the user, as well as provides a few services they can offer.
This gives the reader enough information to make a decision about whether to click the link or not. It is highly likely that if they required logo design and branding or a website, they would get what they need from this company.
If your website is also set up correctly using Structured Data, you can benefit from meta descriptions within your search result extensions, like you can see below:
Meta Description length
The meta description length should ideally be (but not limited to) between 120 and 160 characters. But if it’s not limited, why is there a character range?
Well if you look at the example below of an automated facebook meta description, you can see that Google cuts off any description that is too long.
The limit can vary depending on the situation, such as the one above in which they appear shorter in the extensions.
This means that although there’s not a limit to the length of your text, you should always aim to keep them within the recommended range, ensure they read naturally, be engaging and are unique to every page of your website.
Think of them as a ‘Tweet’ or a writing challenge. How can you entice a user to click your link, using only limited characters.
Meta Description length checker
There’s a great tool on totheweb.com that allows you to check the length of your meta description visibility, as well as the page title, and preview your actual search result.
I would highly recommend you do this before implementing them on your web pages.
How to write Meta Description
Now we know the length we should aim for when constructing our descriptions, we can start to think about what we want to say.
As mentioned above, the main aim of your descriptions should always be to drive clicks to your page. This means you need to try and convey to the user, that you have what they are looking for.
It goes without mentioning that your descriptions are relevant and are not written for click-bate! This will increase your bounce-rate and will do you no favours in the long run.
The tone of your writing must be kept natural and as mentioned, not sound like spam. However, there are a few techniques you can introduce into your writing that can help increase clicks to your page.
Firstly, include your focus keywords. Google boldens them within the SERP, so the user’s eye is drawn to them when reading.
However, watch out for keyword stuffing and try to use them naturally. In the end, that’s why the user is there in the first place.
Try to include a call-to-action, such as ‘Learn More‘, or ‘Try for FREE‘. Give the user’s action to do. It doesn’t want to sound too pushy, but a well-constructed CTA can work wonders.
TOP TIP – Don’t include double quotation marks, Google cuts-off any text following the quotation mark.
How to find the meta description of a website
First, go to the page in your browser. Then right-click on your mouse and choose ‘View Source‘ from the sub-menu. Once the source code appears, look for the <meta name=”description”. Your metadata is everything on this line. You can follow this little video below:
How to add meta description in WordPress
The best way to add a meta description to your WordPress website is to use utilise the Plugin feature. Plugins such as RankMath and Yoast are 2 great tools, not just for this task, but SEO for WordPress in general.
A great advantage of using plugins like these is that they not only give advice on what you should say for your focus keyword search term, but they also give a real-time character limit guide whilst you type – how good is that!
Conclusion – What have we learned?
Well, we should now be able to answer the question, ‘What are Meta Descriptions?‘ We should have a better understanding of how to write them for our audience, as well as some of the restrictions we need to be aware of.
The main point to take away from this is, do meta descriptions directly influence our page rankings – No. But do they contribute to an all-around improved experience for our users, and indirectly improve page SEO – YES ABSOLUTELY.
Are you effectively using meta descriptions on your website? As part of our SEO Services, we will ensure your website is correctly using them to engage potential customers, as well as many other SEO factors that you should consider.