Understanding what meta descriptions are and mastering how to write them is crucial for enhancing your website’s visibility and engagement.

This article is for SEO beginners and seasoned copywriters who aim to improve their content’s click-through rates from search engine results.

You will learn the basics of meta descriptions, their significance in SEO, how long they should be, and practical tips for crafting compelling copy.

Additionally, we’ll explore tools that assist in checking and generating meta descriptions to optimise your SEO efforts effectively.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

What is a meta description?

When you search for something online, the short snippet of text that appears under each link in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) is called a meta description.

It summarises the content of a webpage, providing a quick insight into what the page is about before you click on it. Here’s an example:

Meta description

A meta description is part of a webpage’s code, specifically set within a <meta> tag.

Acting as a brief advertisement, its primary role is to grab your attention by clearly showing that the webpage has what you’re looking for.

Well-written meta descriptions don’t directly affect a website’s ranking but they can significantly boost click-through rates.

They give searchers clear expectations of what’s on the webpage, making them a key element in search engine marketing.

While search engines like Google might not always display your meta description, they still play an essential role in attracting potential visitors.

For a comprehensive overview of all SERP features, have a look at The Ultimate Guide to SERP Features

Are meta descriptions important for SEO?

Meta descriptions are not technically one of the Google search ranking criteria, as highlighted by Google in a discussion on how search algorithms evaluate content.

Having said that, understanding their importance in SEO is crucial.

Although they don’t directly impact your ranking, spending time crafting a good meta description can significantly influence other important aspects of your site’s performance.

Crawlability and indexing

Meta descriptions play a supportive role in the crawlability and indexing of your webpage.

By incorporating relevant keywords and clear descriptions, you help search engine crawlers better analyse and understand your content.

This clarity not only aids crawlers but also ensures that search engines can more accurately index your site.

The clearer your content is presented, the easier it is for search engine bots and algorithms to navigate through your site, enhancing correct indexing.

Clickability and click-through rates

The primary benefit of a well-written meta description is improved clickability, often reflected in higher click-through rates (CTR).

A compelling meta description acts like a storefront window; it pushes people to enter based on the initial impression it gives.

If your meta description clearly promises what the searcher is looking for, it increases the likelihood they will click on your link.

Essentially, the better the meta description, the more likely users are towill engage with your content, driving more traffic to your site.

Social shares

Meta descriptions are crucial when sharing content on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. These snippets automatically populate when someone shares a link from your site, serving as an introduction to your content for potential new readers.

A strong, engaging meta description can encourage more shares, extending your content’s reach and impact. This increases visibility and enhances user engagement across various platforms.

To find out more about best SEO practices have a look at:

How long should a meta description be?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the ideal meta description length.

However, Google does cut out snippets to fit the display limits of different devices.

For desktop views, it allows up to about 158 characters or 920 pixels. On mobile devices, the space is limited to around 120 characters or 680 pixels.

The right meta description length ensures your entire message is visible in search results, preventing key information from being cut off.

If a meta description is too long and gets cut off, it might fail to convince a user to click on your content.

On the other hand, a meta description that is too short may fail to get your message across and will probably not provide enough information to grab the reader’s attention.

Either way, your click-through-rate will be badly affected.

Practical tip

Many content management systems, like WordPress, offer features that allow you to preview how your meta description will appear in Google’s Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

These previews can help you adjust your meta descriptions to fit within the ideal range effectively.

For an even more precise approach, consider using meta description checker tools (for a list of the top tools on the market, have a look at the last section of this guide).

Key takeaway

While there isn’t an absolute “ideal” length for a meta description, aiming for approximately 158 characters on desktop and 120 characters on mobile is a useful rule of thumb.

This range helps ensure your description is concise yet complete enough to engage users and improve your site’s CTR.

How to write a meta description

Writing a compelling meta description is crucial for improving how your page appears in search results and can greatly impact click-through rates.

Here, we combine advice from Astrid IQ‘s copywriting experience with clear guidelines from Google to teach you how to write effective meta descriptions.

1. Understand the role of meta descriptions

Google may use the <meta name=”description”> tag from your page to generate a snippet in search results.

This tag should provide a short, relevant summary of what the page is about.

This is not just a container for keywords; it’s like a pitch to convince users that the page has exactly what they’re looking for.

2. Create unique descriptions for each webpage

Every page on your website should have a meta description that is distinct and tailored specifically for that content.

This ensures that each page is accurately represented in search results, helping users decide if the content matches what they are searching for.

For example, if your website has multiple articles on similar topics, each article’s meta description should highlight specific aspects or perspectives that set it apart.

This not only improves user experience but also reduces the risk of duplicate content issues that can dilute your SEO efforts.

Each description should serve as a mini-advertisement for the page, encapsulating its unique value proposition to entice users to click through.

3. Incorporate relevant information

Whether it’s a blog post or a product page, include crucial information within the meta description that reflects the core content of the page.

For example, if it’s a blog post about the best outdoor camping gear, the meta description might say,

Explore our guide to the best outdoor camping gear for 2024, featuring top picks for tents, backpacks and cooking equipment to enhance your next adventure. [155 characters]

Similarly, for a product page, you might use:

Discover our latest high-tech smartphones: the XPhone 12S, featuring a 48MP camera, 5G capability and a sleek, durable design available in three colours.[153 characters]

These descriptions provide a clear and enticing summary of what users can expect, which is crucial for attracting clicks and properly indexing the page in search results.

4. Consider programmatically generated descriptions

For websites with a lot of content, such as news sites or online stores with many products, manually writing a unique meta description for each page can be overwhelming.

In these cases, it might be more efficient to use software that automatically creates meta descriptions based on the content of each page (have a look at the next section).

This approach uses a template that fills in specific details from the page, like the title of a news article or the key features of a product.

For example, an automatic description for a news article might include the headline, author and date, while a product page’s description could automatically list the price and key specifications.

Automating this process ensures that every page has a relevant and unique meta description, which helps search engines understand and index your site more effectively.

5. Avoid keyword stuffing

While it’s important to include relevant keywords to help improve the visibility of your page in search results, a meta description should be informative and engaging, not just a series of keywords strung together.

Stuffing your meta description with keywords can make it difficult to read and less likely to attract clicks.

Instead, focus on writing clear, concise descriptions that tell users exactly what they can expect to find on the page.

For example, a keyword-stuffed meta description for the web page of an online shoe store might look like this: “Buy shoes, best shoes, cheap shoes, men’s shoes, women’s shoes, kids’ shoes”.

This is lazy, boring and ultimately ineffective copywriting.

A more effective description would be something like:

Discover our wide range of affordable footwear for the whole family, featuring stylish and durable shoes for men, women and children. [133 characters]

This not only includes relevant keywords naturally but also provides a clearer idea of what the page is about, making it more appealing to potential visitors.

6. Quality over quantity

Focus on writing meta descriptions that truly encapsulate what the page is about rather than just filling up space.

High-quality descriptions are more likely to be displayed in Google’s search results and can significantly enhance the quantity and quality of your search traffic.

For example, a low-quality meta description for a local bakery might simply list items: “bread, pastries, cakes, cookies, sandwiches”.

A better, more descriptive version would convey more useful information to potential customers: “Visit our cosy bakery in the heart of downtown for freshly baked bread, pastries and custom cakes. Enjoy our daily specials crafted with local ingredients”. [155 characters]

This improved description offers a more inviting snapshot of what the bakery provides, potentially increasing both interest and foot traffic.

7. Keep it concise but informative

A well-crafted meta description should be brief yet packed with enough detail to inform and entice the reader.

This is easier said than done but striking the right balance between brevity and substance can make your snippet stand out in search results.

Typically, you should aim to keep your meta description within 155 to 160 characters to avoid truncation.

However, each word must count.

Start by clearly stating what the page offers, then highlight a unique benefit or feature that distinguishes it from similar pages.

For example, a meta description for a personal finance blog post might read:

“Unlock the secrets to saving for retirement with our simple, step-by-step guide. Maximise your savings with practical tips from leading financial experts”. [153 characters]

This description is concise, gives a clear idea of what the article covers and includes a compelling reason for the user to visit the page: expert advice on a common financial goal.

Remember, the goal is to give searchers a compelling reason to click through while accurately reflecting the content of the page.

A well-balanced meta description can improve both the click-through rate and the user’s impression of your site.

8. Use an active voice and include a call to action

Writing in an active voice makes your meta descriptions more engaging and direct, helping to capture the attention of potential visitors.

This helps convey a sense of immediacy and action, which is especially effective when combined with a clear call to action (CTA).

A CTA encourages users to take specific steps, such as “Learn more”, “Buy now”, “Get started”, or “Discover”, making the search result more inviting, actionable and rewarding.

In fact, if you look back at all the examples provided in this guide, you’ll notice that they all incorporate a call to action, subtly giving users a practical reason to interact with the content.

From exploring a comprehensive guide to discovering a wide range of products, these calls to action make descriptions informative and interactive.

This increases click-through rates and enhances user engagement with your content once they land on your page.

For example, if you’re describing a new project management software, your meta description might read: “Explore the latest features of our project management software. Start your free trial today and streamline your project workflow”.

This description uses an active voice and encourages the reader to engage with the product by offering a tangible benefit.

For more tips about SEO copywriting, we recommend reading Content Strategy Services: The Ultimate Guide.

Meta description tools

When writing meta descriptions, the right SEO tools can make a big difference in optimising your SEO writing.

While it’s important not to rely entirely on them (especially automatic generators!), these tools can help you come up with new ideas or refine well-thought-out content.

Here are some of the top meta description checkers and generators:

Meta description length checkers:

Meta description generators:

Using these tools, you can ensure that your meta descriptions are not only the right length but also powerful enough to improve click-through rates.

Remember, the goal is to use these tools as aids in your writing process, not as a substitute for your creativity and understanding of your audience.