What is a Meta Description? Tips, Tricks, and Best Practices

Adam Steele
Nov 4, 2023
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Mastering the craft of meta descriptions is a skill any good digital marketer should have in their toolkit.

Without it, you’re leaving a lot on the table—rankings, traffic, and, worst of all, conversions.

To get you up to speed with all the ins and outs of meta description mastery, here we

  1. answer the question, “What is a meta description?”
  2. discover why they are so important to SEO,
  3. and look at how you can create killer meta descriptions with ease.

What is a Meta Description?

A meta description is a snippet of text—typically 150-160 characters long—that provides a succinct overview of the content of a webpage. If you’ve ever read the text that lies below the title tag on the search engine results pages (SERPs), then you’ve encountered meta descriptions in action.

These brief yet powerful summaries give readers a glimpse of the content behind the link, making it easier for them to decide whether the author’s insights are worth their time… or perhaps whether they’re not.

Learn more: SEO glossary, 250+ terms explained.

Why are Meta Descriptions Important?

The million-dollar question: why are meta descriptions so important? Simple, really, meta descriptions play a starring role in the world of search engine optimization (SEO). Here’s why:

  • Click-through rate (CTR) booster. Meta descriptions directly influence CTRs and, as a result, site traffic. Consequently, a well-crafted meta description will entice users to click on your link, boosting your CTR and sending positive signals to search engines about your content’s relevance and trustworthiness.
  • The user experience (UX) factor. At a glance, a clear, concise, and informative meta description helps users understand what your content is all about. This brief preview sets the stage for a smooth and enjoyable user experience, which both search engines and potential customers love and reward.
  • Standing out in the crowd. With millions of search results vying for users’ attention, a captivating and informative meta description will make your webpage stand out on the SERPs. In other words, a meta description is your chance to differentiate your content from the competition and attract search engine users with your expertise and insights.

Do Meta Descriptions Affect Search Rankings?

While in the past, meta descriptions were considered a direct ranking factor, this is no longer the case. In fact, Google has explicitly stated that meta tags, meta descriptions included, are no longer a direct ranking factor. In their own words, “Our web search (the well-known search at Google.com that hundreds of millions of people use each day) disregards keywords meta tag completely. They simply don’t have any effect on our search ranking at present.”

So what’s behind the change? Why are meta tags no longer a ranking factor?

As Google’s search engine algorithm has evolved, its focus has shifted to providing more accurate and relevant search results based on the actual content of a page rather than a webpage’s meta description.

This certainly isn’t to say that meta descriptions have lost their importance, though. As noted above, meta descriptions still play a decisive role in CTR, user experience, and the likelihood that a search engine user clicks on a link.

So, Should You Write Your Own Meta Descriptions?

At this point, it’s also important to note that Google won’t always opt to display the meta description of a ranking page. Instead, if Google’s algorithm feels a snippet of text pulled from the webpage more accurately represents the content or better aligns with a user’s query, it will display this text instead.

Considering this, you may be wondering, “Well, if Google is simply going to use on-page content, is it worth writing meta descriptions at all?”

We’d argue, yes. Why? According to an Ahrefs case study, Google uses on-page content 62.78 percent of the time and displays the page’s meta description 37.22 percent of the time. As John Mueller, a Senior Search Analyst at Google, has previously stated (we’re paraphrasing here), if the meta description is well-written, accurately represents the on-page content, and matches a user’s search query, the SERPs will display the meta description written by the publisher.

In other words, while Google is more likely to write its own meta description for your webpage, there’s still a chance it would prefer to use your rendition. After all, you know your content best; you (or someone you employed) wrote it.

Learn more: how to write a meta description for SEO.

Crafting the Perfect Meta Description

Meta descriptions allow you to make a memorable first impression and convince potential visitors that your webpage holds the answers they seek. So, let’s explore how you can do just that.

Optimal Meta Description Length

When it comes to meta descriptions, size matters. And like a web page’s title, a meta description that’s too lengthy will be truncated (cut off), so keep your meta descriptions a length of 150-160 characters to avoid this. Specifically, for Google, meta descriptions shouldn’t be longer than 920 pixels on a desktop and no more than 750 pixels on mobile. For Bing and Yahoo, meta descriptions truncate at 980 pixels.

Stick to this sweet spot to ensure potential visitors see your entire message.

Using Target Keywords

Another important tactic to use when writing effective meta descriptions is to sprinkle your target keyword into its text. By doing so, you’re signaling to users and search engines that your content is relevant to a search query. Google will also bold certain words throughout a meta description to help users quickly find a resource that answers their query; target keywords are often among these bolded words.

So, go right ahead and give your meta description that extra keyword kick to make it stand out from the crowd.

Learn more: how to choose keywords for SEO.

Active Voice and Clear Call to Action

When it comes to compelling copy, an active voice is a must—meta descriptions included. This means eliminating passive language such as “can,” “may,” and “could” and, instead, replacing it with active language like “will,” “must,” and “should.”

An active voice will steer your audience by telling them directly what you want them to do. Whereas passive language is often seen as less engaging and less convincing, leaving your audience uncertain about the intended action.

So, ditch the passive tone and embrace active language to craft powerful and persuasive meta descriptions that drive clicks and conversions.

Learn more: SEO copywriting services.

Meta Description Checker Tools

So all your hard work isn’t wasted, and your carefully crafted meta descriptions appear just as you intended them to, we recommend using a meta description checker. Spotibo’s Google search results preview tool is one of the best in this department.

Why? It’s free and easy to use; can’t beat that. Spotibo’s nifty tool lets you see how your webpage title, URL, and meta description will appear on the SERP, allowing the necessary tweaks you need to make to ensure your meta descriptions are optimized and eye-catching.

Conclusion

Remember, focus on optimal length, sprinkle in the content’s target keyword/s, don’t forget to use an active voice, and use copy that’s unique and engaging. With these tips and tricks up your sleeve, you’re well on your way to creating meta descriptions that drive the level of clicks and conversions your content deserves.

Still feeling a bit overwhelmed? No worries—let Loganix be your secret weapon in the battle for SERP supremacy. Get in touch with us today and watch your rankings soar.

Written by Adam Steele on November 4, 2023

COO and Product Director at Loganix. Recovering SEO, now focused on the understanding how Loganix can make the work-lives of SEO and agency folks more enjoyable, and profitable. Writing from beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia.