Note: The meta description is not a Google or Bing ranking factor. It may be used in search results listings (SERPs) but not always: That depends on the specific search query used to include your site or page in the SERPs as well as the search algorithms which may auto-select other content or generate their own description. Don't make it spammy and avoid keyword stuffing.

How to create the right meta description

by Michiel Heijmans, Yoast.com
Dec 21, 2020

The meta description is an HTML tag, which looks like this in the HTML code for the page:

<meta name="description" content="A page's description, usually one or two sentences."/>

Its purpose is simple: it needs to get someone searching with a search term on Google to click your link. In other words, meta descriptions are there to generate click-throughs from search engines.

Search engines say there is no direct SEO benefit from the meta description – they don’t use it in their ranking algorithm. But there is an indirect benefit: Google uses click-through-rate (CTR) as a way of working out whether you’re a good result. If more people click on your result, Google considers you to be a good result and will – based on your position – move you up the rankings. This is why optimizing your meta description is so important, as is optimizing your titles.

35H0jvVN5XeNpnvTpch9WevtFj5mMxiKF8whYT-nPc9MEJJa7r.pngA meta description from yoast.com as seen in the search results

Characteristics of a good meta description​

Based on the research I did on this topic, as well as my own experience, I came up with this list of elements you need to write a good meta description:

1. Keep it up to 155 characters​

The right length doesn’t really exist; it depends on the message you want to convey. You should take enough space to get the message across, but keep it short and snappy at the same time. However, if you check the search results in Google, you’ll mostly see snippets of 120 to 156 characters, like in the example below.

TgP4e7uI4D9ZIQjJeXHGVgTT_bZsxq2QhiMZTtJwOMsK8Bq-o6.jpg
Unfortunately, we can’t fully control what Google displays in the search results. Sometimes it decides to show the meta description, and sometimes it just grabs some sentences of your copy. Either way, your best bet is to keep it short. That way, if Google does decide to show the meta description you’ve written, it won’t be cut short.

2. Use active voice and make it actionable​

If you consider the meta description the invitation to your page, you have to think about your user and their (possible) motivation to visit your page. Make sure that your description isn’t dull, difficult or too cryptic. People need to know what they can expect to find on your page.

The example in the image below is the kind of description you should strive to write. It’s active, motivating, and addressing you directly. You just know what you’re going to get if you click on the link!

A1FPaEjVL4kVGPGp4JJ0_JuZaqR2z5im75UrSuIkrC1MId4RNS.jpg

3. Include a call-to-action​

“Hello, we have such and such new product, and you want it. Find out more!” This overlaps with what I said about the active voice, but I wanted to emphasize it once again. The meta description is your sales text. Except, in this case, the “product” you are trying to sell is the page that is linked. Invitations like Learn more, Get it now, Try for free come in handy and we use them too.

Screenshot-2020-04-30-at-13.00.56-600x116.png

4. Use your focus keyword​

If the search keyword matches a part of the text in the meta description, Google will be more inclined to use it and highlight it in the search results. This will make the link to your site even more inviting. Google sometimes even highlights synonyms. In the example below, both the Academy Awards and Oscars are highlighted. Getting your results emphasized like that makes them stand out even more.

KxmOhJvrXpvzSEoC3ptQtqt8-OrXTv3d1dEdtVzxh2QycieRXp.png

5. Show specifications, where possible​

If you have a product for the tech-savvy, it can be a good idea to focus on the technical specs. For example, you can include the manufacturer, SKU, price, things like that. If the visitor is specifically looking for that product, chances are you won’t have to convince them. As in the example below. The watch can help me stay fit? Sign me up, that’s all I needed to know. Note that to optimize your result in this manner, you should work on getting rich snippets.

Screenshot-2020-04-30-at-13.06.33-600x118.png

6. Make sure it matches the content of the page​

This is an important one. Google will find out if you use the meta descriptions to trick visitors into clicking on your result. They might even penalize you if you do it. But besides that, misleading descriptions will probably also increase your bounce rate. Which will also lower people’s trust in your company. It’s a bad idea for that reason alone. That is why you want the meta description to match the content on the page.

7. Make it unique​

If your meta description is the same as those for other pages, the user experience in Google will be hampered. Although your page titles might vary, all pages will appear to be the same because all the descriptions are the same. Instead of creating duplicate meta descriptions, you’d be better off leaving it blank. Google will pick a snippet from the page containing the keyword used in the query. That being said, writing a unique meta description for every page you want to rank with is always the best practice.

About Michiel Heijmans
Michiel is a partner at Yoast and was one of our first employees. Internet veteran. His main goal with most of his articles is to kick-start your site


If your website runs on the WordPress platform, the Yoast SEO plugin is a good place to start in creating (and coding) your meta description tag. The free version available at WordPress.org is easily added from your WordPress dashboard and chances are this version will be all you need. There is also a Pro or Premium version which offers additional features.

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