A quick guide to meta descriptions

12 Aug 2022


Megan Boyle

Megan Boyle

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What is a meta description? 

When a user arrives at a page of search results, they will see the title of an article – the title tag – and a description underneath. The summary found below the title is called a meta description and this is used to convince a user that the page is relevant to their search, and that they should click through to your website. Meta descriptions should not be copied from other pages on your site, they should be unique to each piece of content or page. Meta descriptions are an important part of SEO, and are not something to be forgotten about.


How long should meta descriptions be?

search result on Google with a title tag and a meta description

Meta descriptions should be between 155 and 160 characters, and using tools such as the SERP snippet optimisation tool can help to ensure the length is correct. If your meta description is too long, you will see the text under the title trail off with a  ‘…’. If you don’t add one in, Google will simply choose a snippet of text from your page to display, usually with an ellipsis cutting it off. Visualising your meta description through Yoast SEO on WordPress can be really helpful when just starting out; this will show you exactly what your meta description will look like on a search engine.

Think of metadata as a sign for your physical shop. You don’t want it to be too long, too short, or missing words at the end.


How to write a meta description 

So, how exactly would you write a meta description? As descriptions are very short in comparison to other pieces of text on your site, you need to choose your words carefully. We recommend staying away from unnecessary words or flowery language that will take up precious character and pixel space. Keep it snappy and simple yet intriguing for users. Meta descriptions should always favour user experience, and by this we mean telling the user exactly what they can find on your page. Don’t mislead them. 


How to make your meta description SEO-friendly 

A good meta description will always keep SEO in mind. Whether this is ensuring that your focus keyword is included or that your meta length is spot on, these are both great.


Where do you add the meta description? 

If you don’t have a plug-in on WordPress, such as Yoast SEO – which allows you to easily enter your meta description – then you can find it within the HTML. Within the <head> code there will be a section to type in your meta description, which will then appear under your title tag on Google or any other search engine.


Why are meta descriptions important? 

Meta descriptions are essential to both a user and to Google. Letting Google know what your page is about through a detailed meta description will help when your page is crawled but it won’t really impact on your rankings – meta descriptions are not a ranking factor considered by the algorithm. The only way metas can impact rankings is through CTR (click through rate), if users aren’t clicking through to your page from the results. 


In terms of user experience, meta descriptions are great for that, too. A user will want to reach the page that satisfies their search query as quickly as possible, so what better way to draw attention than an amazing summary below the title. If you don’t include a meta, and the first line of content replaces it, then it’s unlikely to tell a user much about what they can find on that page. So, entice people to your content, services or products with a suitable meta description.


Hopefully now you know what a meta description is and how to write one successfully. If you’re in need of any extra digital support, our SEO and content marketing teams are here to help with more than just meta descriptions. Interested? Get in touch with us today.

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