Mastering Meta Descriptions: Importance and Best Practices for SEO in 2023

Definition of Meta Description

Meta Description is a summary overview of your web page that appears under the title tag in search results and social snippets. It emphasizes the web page’s accuracy and serves the purpose of a content preview for search users.

Meta Description is specified using <meta> tag within the header <head> section of a web page’s HTML copy. A unique, descriptive, and concise meta description can play a vital role in increasing the number of visitors to your web pages. The syntax for writing a meta tag is as follows:

<meta name= “description” content=“text”>

Search engines like Google and Bing can algorithmically generate meta descriptions of your web page by analyzing the content that matches the intent of the search query, if they find your meta description inaccurate, or spammy, or if you haven’t specified it in the HTML copy of the page.

Importance of Meta Description in SEO

Gives Summary About the Page on SERPs

A good meta description works as your initial pitch to your potential clients. It helps search users understand what they can expect on the web page and how it will serve their purpose in the context of the searched query.

Provides Context on Social Snippet

On social snippets, meta descriptions provide social media users with a context of the shared web page without having to click on it.

Influences Click-through Rate and Traffic

Meta description has a direct influence on click-through rate (CTR) and the traffic on a web page. A unique, descriptive, and concise meta-description helps search users understand how the web page will contribute to their purpose concerning their searched query. Thus, helping them decide whether clicking on the web page will benefit them or not.

Good meta descriptions help improve your CTR which eventually benefits you with increased website traffic.

What are the Best Practices for Write Meta Description in 2022?

Write a Unique, Concise, and Descriptive Copy for Each Page

The meta description of a web page should provide a clear and concise context of the content on the page to search users.

Web pages that have inaccurate or irrelevant information in meta descriptions reduce your chances of getting a click from search users and motivate search engines to prefer their own algorithmically generated meta descriptions over yours.

For example, a meta description for the home page of a website should provide search users with a short description of what the brand or organization is recognized for, such as any services or products or what makes them unique in their target niche.

Like the one above that specifies what search users can expect to do on the page, and also, they would need to have a membership to watch the content.

Or this one for Google Account, clearly stating that it is a sign-in page for Google Account services and they have to sign in to use their Google accounts.

Avoid Double Quotes

Google understands double quotes or double quotation marks (“text”) as a signal to truncate the meta description from that point onwards. Thus, when writing a good meta description for your web pages, you should ensure that you avoid the usage of double quotes as best as possible.

However, if it’s unavoidable, then you can specify double quotes in your meta description using its equivalent HTML value (&quot;), so your meta description text will appear with double quotes and the succeeding text won’t get truncated by Google.

Use Call to Action Words

Using Call-to-Action (CTA) words like “Buy”, “Save”, “Try”, “Watch”, etc., helps you entice search users to click on your web page link in SERPs.

Look at the above example. The web page from LaptopMag.com tells you how you can save USD $100 when buying an Apple MacBook Air M2. Similarly, the web page from IndiaStore.com tells you that you can learn about the product specifications, offers, and size details as well as buy the product.

Avoid Duplicity or Similarity

Using duplicate meta descriptions across your website confuses search users as well as search engines about your web page’s relevancy, and motivates search engines to use their algorithmically generated copy of meta description.

Writing a unique meta description manually for every page can be a huge task for large websites like Large Clothing stores where multiple variants of a product can have individual pages with similar product information.

Search Engines understand that writing unique meta descriptions for such web pages can be a huge task; thus, they accept automatically generated meta descriptions for such types of web pages considering the meta descriptions are generated using product-level information. It reduces your chances of having duplicate descriptions despite having similar products.

However, for any important pages like Product Collection pages, category pages, or a page of a specific product that’s in high demand by your potential customers, you should always prefer writing a unique meta description copy for the web page.

Control Its Length

Although, there are no restrictions on the length of a meta description; However, a meta description with excessive length gets truncated by search engines since every snippet on SERPs has a limited size, post which all the excessive text gets replaced by Ellipses “…”.

Similarly, there’s no specified minimum length by search engines for meta description, considering your meta description provides accurate context about the page in human-readable language. The ideal length of meta descriptions should be anywhere from 30 characters to 160 characters depending on the purpose of the web page.

Look at the above image for instance. The Google Account sign-in page only has 33 characters (199 pixels). It’s not too short like “Google Sign in” or just “Sign in”. Moreover, adding any more text to it would seem like an exaggeration of the context.

Now, look at the meta description example for Shopify.com. The first one is for the search query “Shopify com” containing only 76 characters (449 pixels) whereas the second one is for the search query “Shopify” containing 160 characters (960 pixels). However, the original meta description provided by Shopify itself is 172 characters long on both web pages.

However, exceptions are everywhere. Look at the above image for instance. The search queries we used are “apple macbook air m1 chip” and “apple macbook air m1” respectively for these search results. The first meta description is 168 characters (1024 pixels) long whereas the second meta description is 165 characters (1069 pixels) long.

By observing these examples, we can say that the purpose of the web page is the main factor when deciding the length of the meta description. If it’s too short, it would sound non-descriptive and vague and if it’s too long, then search engines will have to truncate its excessive length.

You can control the length of your meta description using the “max-snippet : [number]” meta tag or stop certain parts of content from appearing in the meta description using the “data-nosnippet” meta tag.

Avoid Keyword Stuffing and Vagueness

Adding the same keyword repeatedly makes your meta description look spammy and inaccurate to search users and fails to provide a unique context about the web page. This includes synonyms and variants of the keywords. Instead, you should see if there’s a long-tail version of the keyword that potential customers might already be searching for, which fits the web page’s purpose.

Similarly, adding standardized and non-descriptive text such as “Home Page of brand ABC”, doesn’t add any value to the meta description other than unnecessarily increasing its length. Meta descriptions like this only sound vague to search users without contributing anything to their understanding of the web page.

Examples of Good Meta Description

Meta Description Example on Search Engine Snippets

Meta Description Example in HTML copy of the page.

Meta Description Example on Social Snippet

Meta Description Examples with Call-to-Action Words

Meta Description Examples for Home Pages

Meta Description Examples for Product Collection Pages.

Meta Description Examples for Videos

Writing Meta Description Automatically

Generating meta descriptions automatically should only be preferred if your website has hundreds and thousands of pages and writing meta descriptions for each page can be an impossible task, such for large eCommerce websites, provided meta descriptions are human-readable and diverse.

In CMSs like WordPress and Shopify, you can set up general rules for each type of page using plugins to automatically generate meta descriptions for your pages.

WordPress Plugin for Optimizing Meta Description automatically:

  1. Yoast SEO
  2. All-in-One SEO
  3. Rank Math
  4. WP Meta SEO
  5. SEOPress

Shopify Plugins for optimizing Meta Description automatically:

  1. Yoast SEO
  2. Booster SEO & Image Optimizer
  3. Smart SEO
  4. Plug in SEO
  5. SEO: Image Optimizer Page

Why Google isn’t using my Meta Description?

First of all, Google never promises that it will show your meta description over the one that it generates unless your meta description is better than what Google can generate algorithmically by analyzing your web page.

  • The page hasn’t been re-indexed by Google yet
  • Your meta description length is way too short. Hence, Google finds it irrelevant.
  • You have used the “nosnippet” meta tag in your header, which is signaling Google to not show a meta description for your web page.

Google can also choose to not show a meta description for your web page if it doesn’t have any content on it or the meta description provided by you isn’t relevant.

Look at the home page of Airtel.com for instance. The web page doesn’t have any content and appears without any meta description in Google search. Although, a meta description has been specified in the HTML copy of the page.

Moreover, meta descriptions for web pages can be different depending on the search queries. For instance, Google is showing the following meta description if we search our home page, which is incorrect.

Whereas if we slightly change the search query, then it shows a different meta description.

Or, like this.

FAQs

How to Write Meta Description for Homepage?

When writing a meta description for the home page, you should ensure that the meta description provides search users with a short description of what the brand or organization is recognized for, such as any services or products or what makes them unique in their target niche.

How to Write Meta Description for Contact Page?

When writing a meta description for the contact page, you should ensure that the meta description provides search users with a quick description of what type of contact options they would have, such as live chat, fax, contact number, email, a direct line, or a contact us form.

How to Write Meta Description for About Page?

When writing a meta description for the About page of your company, you should ensure that the meta description provides search users with a quick description of what the company is about, including your mission as a company, history, and what other information they can find on the page.

How to Write Meta Description for Privacy Policy Page?

When writing a meta description for the Privacy Policy or Terms and Conditions pages of your company, ensure that the meta description provides search users with a quick preview of how your company is committed to the privacy of your website users for the Privacy Policy page and a quick brief of your terms for the T&Cs page.

How to Write Meta Description for Author Page?

When writing a meta description for the Author pages of your company, you can provide quick information about the author including his/her name, what expertise the author has, his/her hobbies, and what else they love.

How to Write Meta Descriptions for Blog Pages and Blog Posts?

When writing a meta description for the Blog pages of your company, you can provide quick information about what your blog page represents. For blog posts, you can provide the author’s name and date of publication along with a quick preview of the blog post content.

How to Check Meta Description of a Web Page?

To check the meta description of a web page, you can right-click on the page and select the option “View Page Source”, which will take you to the HTML copy of the page where you can search for the meta description in the meta tags specified within the header tag.

Can I keep the Meta Description the Same as the Web Page Content?

Yes, you can keep the meta description of your web page the same as the content on it. However, a non-descriptive and concise meta description would reduce your chances of getting clicks from search users.

How to Write Meta Descriptions for Product Pages?

When writing a meta description for the Product pages, you can provide quick information about the product, including the product price, target age group, manufacturer’s name, product size, and any other details.

How Long Does It Take to Update My Meta Description?

The meta description can be updated instantly in the HTML copy of the web page; however, to reflect the updates on Search Engines, you can resubmit the web page for re-indexing from Google Search Console.

Is Meta Description a Ranking Factor?

No, the meta description isn’t a ranking factor.

How to Write Meta Description in WordPress?

Meta description in WordPress and how to add it, manually or using a plugin

How to Write Meta Description in Shopify?

Meta description in Shopify and how to add it, manually or using a plugin

What to do if my Meta Description is Missing?

If your meta description is missing, then you should first check if you have specified meta description in the header section of your web page’s HTML copy.

For instance, we didn’t specify a meta description tag for our home page Ideacatalyst.net, so Google picked the content from the h2 headings mentioned on the page, resulting in an incorrect meta description for our home page.

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