Confused by what a meta description is and how you should be using it? Well, this guide will help clear up your confusion and show you how to create a great meta description.
What Is A Meta Description?
A meta description is a short summary, usually 160 characters or less, that is shown in the search results and gives a searcher an idea of what your page content is about. One part of our organic SEO services is to write meta descriptions that improve conversions – as well as title tags since they go hand in hand.
Below is an example of what a meta description will look like in the search results:
In the code of your website your meta description will look like the below:
<meta name=”description” content=”Looking for a new website for your Non Profit or small business? Look no further than NJ based 2 Dogs Media. 10+ years of experience doing what we love!“/>
Do I have to have a meta description?
Simply stated – YES! You need to have a meta description! While it does not impact SEO directly – there are so many other benefits to having meta descriptions and there is a belief it has some type of indirect impact on organic search ranking.
Do Meta Descriptions affect my rank?
It has pretty much been clarified by several sources that a meta description is not a direct ranking factor but may offer a better user experience. It will not improve your website ranking in the Google search results but it may help with your click-through rate which in turn might help you rank higher because Google will see it as a highly relevant result.
Meta tags may have some direct rank affect in other search engines though (like Bing or Duck Duck Go for example) so we do highly recommend always writing a well optimized meta description that includes a keyword for every page of your website.
Will they always use the meta description I write?
No, the search engines will not always use the meta description you write and may pull it from your page content instead.
Below we show an example of how sometimes Google will actually pull content from your page as opposed to the actual meta description you write.
We did a search for “how to stop my dog from barking”.
One of the meta description results was for the Humane Society and you can see their pulled meta description highlighted in yellow in the image below. But if you read it – it is a bit confusing right?
This is not what the website intended to be the meta description – it is what Google pulled.
Below is the meta description as shown in their source code – the one that they WANT Google to use, but you can see that what is entered below is clearly different than what is being returned in the image above.
So, why was this description meta not used by Google?
It has the keyword “stop your dog from barking” – it talks about the website content and appeals to me as a searcher, it makes sense for it to be a meta name description.
The ONLY thing we can possibly see as an issue is the fact that is is using 233 characters as opposed to a recommended amount of less than 160 characters. We do not know for sure of course, but it seems plausible – if this was our website we would change the meta description to be shorter and see if Google picks it up in the future.
Is there anything I can do if my preferred description is not being used?
If Google is pulling a different meta description, then there is probably SOMETHING they feel isn’t properly representative of your actual page topic or it does not fit the query.
There are no definitive things you can do unfortunately – but you can try the following.
- Make sure the meta description you have written is not a duplicate for another page.
- Rewrite the meta description completely to be better aligned to your content.
- Make sure you do not have multiple meta descriptions being generated on your website. Sometimes multiple SEO related plugins can cause issues and duplicates.
- If your meta description is shorter than say 125 characters or longer than 160 characters – rewrite it to fit under the 160 characters range and see if it gets pulled.
Simple tips to write meta descriptions that engage and convert.
- Keep the meta description length to approximately 135-160 characters. There is no longer a true magic number since Google will choose to show as much or little as they would like, but this has been a good character number overall – and writing more than that can result in truncation or the possibility that Google may pull different text entirely.
- When you write your meta descriptions include a call to action! Give them a REASON to come to your website. “Imagine spying on your competitors without them knowing. Try our software for free today.” is just 1 example of a great meta description with great action statement to improve you click-through rate.
- When you create your meta description – matching the page topic is critical. Make sure whatever your meta description says – emulates what your post is about since that will make a difference in the search results.
- While some may say it is not relevant, we do recommend including your main keyword in your meta description. It may improve the chance Google will use your preferred meta description and some search engines also highlight relevant keywords improving the chance of being clicked on.
- Make it conversational! Imagine how you would tell a person about your page and work with that for your meta description.
Meta Description Examples That Rock!
Meta descriptions that entertain, have a call to action and tell us clearly what the page is about are hard to write – but these meta description examples do it well! A good meta description like these – usually show really well in the search engines when written in conjunction with amazing user-intent driven content.
If you can write meta descriptions as good as these your search result will be a lot stronger than your competitors!
This is a good meta description because it clearly defines the demographic they are targeting and the issues that the demographic faces with maturing skin. Tells me clearly how I can look radiant and fresh!
Outside The box
A local company that creates handcrafted tables from locally salvaged wood. The meta description does a great showing exactly where they are located and what you can expect to find on the website.
When Mailchimp realized people did not always get their name right – they did what any creative marketer would do an embraced it by creating a page about it. This is one of our favorite meta descriptions examples – it makes us laugh and makes us curious about what the page has on it.
Chipotle Mexican Grill
Plain, simple and to the point is what makes this a great meta description! You want Chipotle, then this is the place to go. It speaks to their users and appeals to their simple side!
These guys were a no brainer is a contender for our meta description examples list and hopefully you can see why! It makes us laugh and appeals to our lighter side – and like any meta description tag should – makes us want to click.
This dog blog did a great job writing a meta description for their post about litter boxes for dog. Starting with a question gets your curiosity up and then following up with how the product can help a certain demographic is a perfect way to get people to click to read more.
Reaching out to users by showing they understand you are unique – and offer options for you at their restaurant is a great way to build a sense of “understanding” of their consumers. They also managed to squeeze in a recommendation to sign up for offers in their meta description which is a really great idea!
We did a double take on this one because it did not seem real at first, but it is and it is funny as all heck. Do not be afraid to be funny! This is another good meta description with so much personality and a great title tag as well.
The Lonely Planet meta description reaches out to you by asking a question first – then clearly defines everything they do to help you plan your travel. It is personal. descriptive and perfectly fits the recommended character amount.
This meta description is super engaging for a specific blog post about raising teenagers. It appeals to me as the mom of a teenager in wanting to see her experiences and it is witty and sarcastic (of course not everyone responds to sarcasm but it works here because her blog is sarcasm based) – and she shares her credentials too which is important these days. This meta description would definitely make me want to see more about what the web page has for me.
Right off the bat we see the Free Shipping deal and know that they have vintage pieces for all occasions – so they are clearly showing searchers what they offer. This meta description example also shows how a shopper can get free shipping which is a great way to get a user to click through.
Pig Placement Network
This is a great example for a nonprofit. They first ask about me and what I want – then tell me how they are going to help me and even recommend what I should read first. Just a great use of space!
Love this meta description as it addresses a problem with a little creativity. When is the last time you heard the word “kaput”? But it tells me exactly what the post is about in a fun way. It immediately catches the eye when scanning the page.
Puffins understands what their customers want! It is clear in the description that while kids will love the sweet cinnamon taste – moms will love the high fiber and low sugar content. This is a perfect example of writing for your perfect customer to get their interest.
Simple and to the point! They clearly state what they do and how they do it in few short words. The addition of the word luxury immediately tells potential customers they can expect nothing but the best!
Blue Door Boutique
This meta description features a perfect combination of informational and engaging to encourage clicks is what makes this example awesome.
Gimme Some Oven
When we see recipes in the search results we often see descriptions that are pulled from the recipe ingredients or instructions which is a poor user experience. This website did a great job of telling me that this recipe is easy to make, tastes yummy and includes freezing directions!
We love that they are sharing the different type of people that can benefit from the heated gloves they are talking about as well as how they will be “appreciated”.
Test Your Meta Descriptions & Page Titles
Before you post your meta descriptions -TEST THEM!
Make sure all meta descriptions look good and sound good. Read them out loud!
This free tool is a great way to do a quick meta description test: https://totheweb.com/learning_center/tool-test-google-title-meta-description-lengths/
Another highly recommended thing to do is A/B Testing your meta descriptions. We have just started working with A/B Rankings and are very happy with their platform so far.
You can get a 14 day free trial to test it out here.
If you prefer the free way of testing meta descriptions then you can do the following, which is how we have been doing it for years.
- Dig into the Search Console to find keywords that rank well and get a lot of impressions but low click thru rates.
- Create a spreadsheet with columns for date, meta description before and after and any other notes you would like to take.
- Change your description to a new version but make sure you put the old version in your spreadsheet.
- Wait about 30-60 days to see if the CTR for that post or page has improved. If so, keep the new one you created.
- If the page or post has dropped in CTR – then put the old meta description back or try a new version.