What Is a Meta Description?
Meta descriptions are brief snippets of up to 155 characters that you see below post and page titles in the SERPs. They can tell you what you’ll find if you click on any given result.
It’s important to note that meta descriptions aren’t factors in Google’s ranking algorithm. Adding this custom text doesn’t directly boost rankings. However, a great meta description can convince users to click on your pages instead of the other options in the results pages. Even if your page isn’t ranked #1.
A good meta description provides the searcher with enough information to decide whether to check out a page or not. If you don’t add this text manually, search engines generate one directly from the beginning of the content. Usually, that means you end up with meta descriptions that don’t provide enough information, that are wholly out of context, or simply don’t make sense in snippet form.
You can also see meta descriptions that provide information without making it clear what the content as a whole will include. Take a look at these examples below. The meta descriptions tell you nothing that the search query and title don’t already, making them essentially useless for searchers.
Overall, though, most users do hoose search results based on rankings. In fact, the first result on a search page gets almost 30 percent of all clicks. As you move down the list, results get increasingly fewer clicks. It’s sad, but it’s true.
Fortunately, a great title paired with an informative meta description can prompt undecided users to choose your page over others. Plus, WordPress makes it easy to add meta text to your content, thanks to SEO plugins.
How to Write the Perfect Meta Description
- Keep the description below 155 characters. Longer text can prevent users from seeing the entirety of the meta description.
- Explain what users will see. The goal of a meta description is to provide information about the page. You want to be straightforward about the content’s true nature, instead of going for a “clickbait” approach.
- Mention the benefits of the content. An excellent meta description lets readers know how they can benefit from the article they’re about to read.
- Include your target keyword(s). If possible, we recommend including your target keyword in meta descriptions. However, the keyphrase shouldn’t feel forced (just as it shouldn’t elsewhere in your content).
Meeting all of those goals in 155 characters or fewer might seem challenging. However, writing great meta descriptions for SEO is a skill you’ll master quickly if you publish a lot of content.
That description has 139 characters, meaning it has some room to spare. It mentions the post’s essentials and explains what a searcher can gain from reading it. Moreover, it includes an effective Call to Action (CTA).
155 characters can be restrictive. Even Twitter bumped its limit to 280 characters from 140 because it was too limiting. If you’re working with in-depth posts that cover many topics, you might struggle to mention all of them in a meta description. Ultimately, you’ll have to decide what information is the most important to include.
We recommend using this tip to make your descriptions actionable: compel readers to check out your pages and posts using phrases such as “let’s talk about”, or “here’s how to”. These simple, action-based terms can entice readers to click on your content.
Meta Description Length: Make it SEO Friendly
In May of 2020, Google’s John Mueller answered a question about using multiple meta descriptions. He said, “So, if you’re including a second meta description tag on a page we will treat that the same as if you just extend the existing meta tag on the page. there’s no kind of bonus to using a second meta description tag on a page compared to just adjusting your existing one.”
SEJ reported that John Mueller stated Google can handle extra title and meta descriptions, but that publishers should stick to writing a single meta description and a single title tag per page.
However, in some instances, multiple meta description tags are used deliberately. The reason for this is to give a search engine additional options when it comes to displaying meta information that matches a user’s search query.
Purposefully Using Multiple Meta Descriptions
Naturally, these have two significantly different search intents but are inherently related to one another. The idea of having multiple meta descriptions is then to craft two separate descriptions that relate to each phrase.
Therefore, if a user queries “what is keyword research” search engines would display our result with the meta description tailored to the “what is keyword research” search query. Equally, if a user was to search for “keyword research tools”, the second tailored meta description would maybe be displayed.
It is worth noting that there is no guarantee that a search engine will adhere to picking your desired meta description so it is at your own risk to implement multiple descriptions.
How To Implement Multiple Meta Descriptions
This will add one meta description to your page. In order to add multiple, you must repeat this process, adding a second meta description between the tags. This would appear as follows:
To maximize the effectiveness of multiple meta descriptions, they should reflect the search intent of the highest volume keywords the pages rank for or are trying to rank for. This will then give search engines the opportunity to select the most relevant meta description for the user’s search.
Should You Use Multiple Meta Descriptions?
Unless you are purposefully trying to influence the search engine results as outlined above, then it’s generally considered best practice to only include one meta description for each post created.
Within a page that you are optimizing you should include your target topics & keywords, whilst also ensuring the content is 100% unique and satisfies the user intent of the top queries you are trying to rank for.
Meta Descriptions and SEO
Meta descriptions themselves are not ranking factors – that is to say, if you take a site that doesn’t have a meta description and add one, that alone won’t boost your ranking, or even change it.
Think back to those two hair salons we looked at earlier – which one do you think you’d be more likely to click? If you’re anything like me, the answer is almost certainly Bob and Page.
One of the most important ranking factors is click through rate (CTR). CTR is basically the number of people who actually click your link when they see it – those who want a technical deep dive on the subject can read this fascinating article about CTR as a ranking factor on WordStream.
You should also keep in mind that the whole point of SEO is to increase your CTR. The higher you rank on search engines, the more likely it is people will go to your website – a high click through rate creates a positive feedback loop.
What does all this have to do with meta descriptions? The answer is simple: if you’ve got bad copy, I’m not interested in what you’re selling. Your meta description is the copy people see when they search for keywords related to your site – it’s your elevator pitch. You’ve got one chance to entice people to come to your website – don’t waste it.
How to Create a Great Meta Description
Keywords and Location
You’ll want to do keyword research to determine what keywords or phrases you’re trying to rank for, and include those terms in your meta description. When a user searches for those terms, they may end up bolded in your description, which can entice users to click on your page.
Search engines are getting pretty good at what’s known as natural language processing (NLP). That means instead of simply viewing a word as a piece of data, they’re getting better at understanding language in the same way humans understand language.
Notice that in the examples provided above, the word salon is bolded, even though my search didn’t include the word salon. That’s because Google understands hair salon to be a synonym for what I’m looking for (a good haircut). In other words, you can use synonyms and terms that are semantically related to your desired keywords when you write meta descriptions. That’s a good thing, because keyword stuffing can actively hurt CTR – it makes for bad copy.
Location is simple enough: talk about the region, city, or neighbourhood that your page primarily serves. This won’t always be relevant, but make sure to include it when it applies (e.g. product pages catered to a certain location).
Use Active Voice and Make It Actionable