What is a Meta Description?
A meta description is the small blurb that appears underneath your website on the SERP. It is designed to provide users with a brief summary of the content on your page so that users know if the page will answer their question. Traditionally, meta description length has maxed out at 155 characters, with the exception of experimental periods such as when Google temporarily extended the length to 320-character meta descriptions.
It is important to stay within the character limit on the meta description to avoid having part of your description get cut off by the search engine and appear incomplete in the SERP.
Why do I need to worry about optimizing the meta description?
The meta description is a valuable tool both for users and the search engine. When the page appears on the SERP, users will scan it to see if it answers their query. A quality meta description can positively impact the number of people who click through your site. In turn, this can raise your traffic and engagement, improving your rankings in the SERP.
How do I write an outstanding meta description?
Here is a five-step breakdown, based on recommendations and suggestions Google has stated in its webmaster guidelines, of how to write effective meta descriptions that will help grow your CTR from your listings on the SERPs.
1. Accuracy and quality
The primary concern for a quality meta description is always accuracy. The summary should correctly describe the content and provide motivation for users to click this particular link. Keep in mind that just like the rest of your content, keyword stuffing or using only lists of keywords provides little context or helpful information for the user. This creates a poor user experience and will not encourage clicks. Meta descriptions should be snippets of high-quality content.
2. Character limits
Put the most important text near the beginning of the description tag. Google does not set character limits for meta descriptions, but it does limit the number of characters displayed to users on the SERP. Best practice is to keep meta descriptions between 120-150 characters. This ensures your entire meta description will appear on both desktop and mobile.
3. Consistency and originality
Since meta descriptions do not always get displayed to users, site owners have the tendency to overlook their importance. Particularly now since the DMOZ will no longer have a role in the process, brands should make sure that every page has a unique, quality meta description, particularly for pages that have no text on them. The same description should not be used across multiple pages of the website. Each page of content offers something different for the user, and thus the meta description should be similarly unique and articulate to what makes the page important and relevant.
4. Use a call to action
Think of the meta description as the body copy in a search ad. Describe what the page has to offer and then use action language words, like “Learn how to…”, “Discover how to…,” “Read about…,” “Take advantage…,” “Sign up for a free trial…”.
5. Robots directives when needed
Since the DMOZ is no longer operational, the NOODP robots directive will no longer be used. Google does, however, still allow site owners to use the “nosnippet” robots directive if they want to prevent the search engine from displaying any type of snippet in the SERP. This would make the result just show the title. The snippets that appear beneath your website links on the SERP play an important role in generating attention and traffic for your website. They demonstrate your relevance to prospective readers.
Meta descriptions can have a powerful impact on whether or not people click through your SERP result onto your content. Work to create descriptions that inspire and entice the user so that they are inclined to click and see what else you might have to say about the topic.