What is a Meta description & How to use it for SEO?
The Meta description is an HTML element that is used to display the description / summery of a web page. For search engines and social platforms it’s important that you write descriptive and engaging Meta descriptions, based on the main focus keyword(s) and subject of your page. Meta descriptions are displayed underneath the Title tag / headline and the URL on the search engine results page.
Meta description length
Google uses a maximum width to determine when they will cut off a description. To be sure your Meta description will be displayed completely it’s recommended to use a maximum of 160 characters (punctuation included).
How do search engines use the Meta description?
Meta descriptions aren’t a direct ranking factor for search engines, but an attractive description will improve your CTR (click trough rate). Search engines uses CTR and other engagement metrics to serve the most relevant top 10 results for a search query.
So make sure you write relevant and engaging descriptions to get the attention from potential visitors and maximize the Click Trough Ratio from the search engine results page.
Why doesn’t Google display my Meta description?
There are multiple situations when search engines might choose to ignore your description and generated their own based on the page content. Let’s have a look at some examples:
- Your page is relevant for a search query, but the specific keyword(s) from the query don’t match the description.
- The Meta description of your page is too short (~ < 50 characters).
- You haven’t added a Meta description to the page.
Do I always need to add a Meta description?
I would recommend writing Meta descriptions, at least for your best performing organic landing pages. And when you’re responsible for an e-commerce website it is wise to use description templates, because in that case you can generate pretty well structured descriptions using keyword insertion.
Because the Meta description just don’t carry the weight like for example the Title tag does, it’s important you make the right decision how you spend your SEO time and efforts. In some cases it can be wise to leave the meta description empty for less important pages and let search engines figure it out.
<meta name="description" content="Write relevant, descriptive and engaging meta descriptions for all your important pages
to maximize the Click Trough Ratio from the search engine results page">
- Write Meta descriptions that match search intent.
- Write compelling and engaging Meta description copy.
- Make sure your descriptions visually stand out form the pack. Use special characters to get maximum attention (warning: different browser and operating system are known to render icons differently). Some examples: ① ② ③ ④ ⑤ ⑥ ⑦ ⑧ ⑨ ⑩ ➊ ➋ ➌ ➍ ➎ ☓ ✓ ✕ ✖ ✗ ✘✿ ☺ ☻ ☹ ☼ ☂ ☃ ⌇ ⚛ ⌨ ✆ ☎
CMS advice (e-commerce):
- It should be possibility to use custom Meta description templates for different page types using keyword insertion, for example:
- Category templates.
- Product page templates.
- Physical store pages
- Your CMS should offer you the possibility to manually override automatically generated Meta descriptions.
- The CMS should trigger a warning when the maximum number of characters is exceeded.
Avoid Title tag issues
- Avoid keyword stuffing. Google doesn’t appreciate needles keyword repetition. Because keyword stuffing doesn’t improve user experience and looks spammy.
- Avoid non-descriptive Meta descriptions. If the Meta description doesn’t match the page content users are far less likely to click on your result because the description doesn’t match their search query and intent.
- Bulk Title tag checker – Use this tool to check the Title tag for multiple pages.
- SEO Content editor – The SEO Content tool helps you to SEO optimize your content, so you can focus on writing creative content.
- SEO Keyword suggestion Tool – Get keyword suggestions from Google based on your target language.
- Google Webmaster Tools – Use the CTR data for specific pages and queries to see how well your pages are ranking for the selected keywords.