How to Write Meta Description

The simple science of writing seo meta description that actually works

When it comes to creating a piece of content that both search engine and users love, it is not all about the copy on the page.

There are some important HTML attributes and metadata that you can add to the back end of your content page to send signals to both users and search engine.

One of the most important out of those meta snippets is SEO meta description which impacts clicks, engagement, traffic; and indirectly your search ranking.

So, how do you make sure to write a perfect met description every time that fulfills all your SEO and content writing efforts?

How to write meta descriptions

In this blog post, I will explain what makes a good meta description and why it is important and then look at a number of well-written meta description examples.

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Basics of Meta Description

Before diving straight into how to write a good meta description, it’s important to understand what is meta description and how it impacts your SEO.

What is Meta Description?

The meta description is a blurb of text that appears underneath a page’s title in Google’s organic search results. It is usually a couple of sentences long and gives a brief summary of what users can expect from the web page’s content.

Here is an example of what it usually looks like in Google:

Meta description example

The meta description element is located in the <HEAD> section of the web page, which usually looks something like this:

<meta name="description" content="Want ti learn how to do the WordPress SEO the right way? Follow our 35 points WordPress SEO checklist to optimize your site and rank higher in Google." />

Why is your content’s meta description important?

Back in Septemeber 2009, Google clearly clarified that meta description is not part of their ranking algorithm and they don’t consider the text in meta description while ranking a webpage.

Meta description ranking factor

Then why you should bother about meta description?

Well, there are plenty of direct and indirect ways, your meta description can influence CTR, traffic, share & conversion of your post/page…

Here are few of the important one:

1. A meta description is like a mini ad for a web content

When your meta description appears on either SERP (search engine result page) or Social media platforms (like Facebook or Twitter), it acts as a small promo of the web content.

This gives you an opportunity to tell your target audience why they should click on your result.

2. Defined meta descriptions look better in search results

When you don’t set a preferred meta description for your web content by yourself, both search engines and social media platform automatically select some paragraphs of your web copy for meta description.

This usually results in cut off of text, missing important details and appearing irrelevant page data and ultimately gets ignored by users.

Google search result without meta description

Defining the text you want to use for your meta description allows you to ensure that your target audience gets the best and most relevant description of your web content.

3. Strategic meta descriptions increase click-through rates

If you strategically optimize your meta description keeping searcher’s intent in the mind, you’ll get more clicks in SERP.

The reason is very simple “you are promising them to offer what they actually need” thus chances of your post/page get clicked is very higher.

4. Higher click-through rates increase search rankings

As I mentioned above, while a good meta description won’t directly increase your search engine ranking, it definitely increases your CTR (click-through-rate).

And since Google uses click-through-rate as a way of finding out whether you are a good result, a higher CTR will lead you to the higher ranking.

How long should your meta description be?

The general rule of the optimal meta description length is too keep the text between 130-150 characters.  On mobile, that number decrease to maximum 120 characters.

Since it is not possible to set a specific meta description for different devices, it’s important that your meta description includes the most important information at the beginning.

Putting your most important information at the front of meta description ensures that your critical information display across all devices (tablet, mobile and desktop).

Your meta description should not be too short either! In that case, Google may assign a random description of its own, In order to prevent this much from happening, make sure your meta description length is at least of 70 characters or 430 pixels.

The optimal meta description length may also change in time. That is because the search engine like Google optimizes the appearance of SERP continuously.

For example, back in 2017, Google increased the meta description length to 300 characters. But in May 2018, Google unexpectedly dropped the meta description length back to 160 characters.

Read also – 100+ websites that accept Guest posts for free.

Heads up: Google doesn’t always use your preferred meta descriptions

It is also important to understand that Google won’t always display your preferred meta description in the search result.

In fact, according to a study conducted by Moz – only 35.9% of the original description are displayed ‘as in’ search result.

While examining 70,059 original meta description, Moz also discovered that:

  • In 15.4% of cases, Google used the original meta description (set by website owner) but added some additional text.
  • In 51.3% of cases, Google display snippet perfectly matched the meta description or fully contained it.
  • In 3.2% of cases, Google used a shortened version of the meta description with an ellipsis on the end.

In total, Search engine giant Google used all or part of the original description in 55% of cases.

So, one thing that is clear from these stats is “Google may choose to rewrite your meta descriptions if they don’t adequately suit a user’s query.”

Additional info – What causes Google’s search algorithm to rewrite meta description (SEJ)

How To Write Perfect Meta Descriptions

As I said earlier Meta description may not directly get you ranking boost, but a well-optimized description will always give you High CTR.

Here is what you should consider while writing meta description for your webpage.

#1. Highlight a clear Solution or Benefit

Write a short sentence summarizing your post or letting searcher know what they can expect from your post.

Highlight the clear value of clicking through on your result and reading your post.

Similar to ad copy, this is your chance to sell them on what you have to actually offer.

Example of a good meta description

For example, here Freecodecamp tells the readers how their post will help them (‘stay productive during COVID’). They have also clearly mentioned that their post includes a “free planning template” that provides additional value to them.

#2. Use the active voice to hold audience attention

Writing in active voice uses few words, makes the message more concise and efficient.

Plus, using active voice also helps people easy to visualize and picturing themselves into taking action.

So, it is no surprise why it is recommended to maintain the active voice as much as possible.

#3. Use Action-Oriented Language

You have to treat your each meta description as a call-to-action.

Use action oriented language in your meta description which instigate the user to take action.

For example, you can start your meta description with proven CTA verbs like “Learn”, “Discover”, or “Explore” and then include the post specifies.

Here is an example of meat description by Kinsta that uses action-oriented copy:

CTA words in meta description

#4. Include the page’s targeted keyword

Being a good content writer and marketer, we always perform the keyword research first before writing a web copy.

Since using the target keyword into the webpage’s body copy and the title is a common on-page SEO practice, people often ignore adding it to the meta description.

But if you don’t want Google to re-write your description every time, make sure to include your focus keywords into the meta description too.

Use one or two relevant keywords — but don’t stuff these keywords anywhere you can — make sure they fit naturally within your description and help describe what a user can expect after clicking on the search result.

Search engine like Google often highlights/bold keywords in the meta description when they match the user’s search term.

So, when you incorporate well-researched key phrase in your description, it will stand out in the SERP and get more clicks than your competitors.

For example, when I searched for “weekly workout plan” in Google, all the results with the exact term and related term got bolded.

Google bold keywords in SERP

#5. Avoid “non-alphanumeric” characters

Exclamation mark(!), at symbol(@), commas(, ), dash(-) etc and other special characters like dollar sign($), equal symbol(=), plus sign(+) might appears fine on your computer/smartphone screen, but search engines robots can’t recognize these symbols as easily as you do.

All of these are called “non-alphanumeric” characters and you should avoid using them in your meta description.

Because some of them either don’t appear in the SERP the way you intend and others can completely ruin the entire snippet.

For example, any time you use double quotation marks (“quote”) in your description, , Google automatically removes it from the search result.

#6. Don’t try to fool the potential website visitors

While your goal of writing meta description should be attracting user’s attention to click on your result, you must always do it in an ethical way.

Never use irrelevant keyword, fake promise or unrelated copy to promote your content or get more clicks in the search results.

Using click-bait (incorrect) statement might give you a few more clicks for a day, but negatively impact your SEO ranking in the long term.

Read also – How to Write a Good Blog Post?

#7. Avoid duplication across pages

In an ideal scenario, every page/post on your website is for a different purpose, and so should be it SEO meta description tag.

If you meat description for different pages are same, the user experience in Google’ search result will be hampered.

Still, if you think you need to use the same meta tag description on different pages, probably you should merge the multiple page together or better leave the description column blank for another page. Google itself will pick a snippet from the web page matching searcher’s query.

#8. Use different meta data for Facebook and Twitter

Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter either use a page’s defined meta description (your SEO description) or a random few sentence from the content as the blurb for their featured posts.

By using an SEO plugin like Yoast or Rank Math, you can change the description that will appear when the particular page/post is shared on social media.

Meta data for Social media platforms

This gives you more control on writing targeted meta description data to bet fit the platform it is shared on.

Great meta description examples

Based on the above suggestions, here are some well-written meta description examples across industries and search intents.

#1. Tesla

Tesla website description

Your website homepage is one of the most important page where I would advise spending more time on writing perfect SEO description, because it usually appears for branded queries where search intent is clear.

Tesla has done a great job at writing perfect website description that conveys what the company represent, what it produces, it’s brand value & ambition.

#2. Email Marketing Guide

Meta description tag

This result from Reliablesoft, which ranks for the search term “what is email marketing”, does a great job of both giving the simple answer of search query directly into description with a call to action verb to explore more on the topic.

#3. How to Ride a Bicycle (WikiHow)

Meta description examples

In this meta description example, WikiHow has first asked the question to confirm the searcher’s situation and then promised to help them in learning to ride a bicycle.

#4. Lonely Planet

Lonely trip meta description

The Lonely Planet website meta description starting with a question draws the reader’s attention – then goes on to explain how they exactly help the peoples interested in travelling.

It is descriptive, personal and perfectly fit the recommended meta description length.

#5. Roasty Coffee

Roasty coffee meta description

I personally loved this description as the website addresses the problem in a creative way.

#6. Men’s formalwear (Tk Maxx)

TK MAXX meta description

TK Maxx has managed to hit all the right notes of a good description within 15O characters.

It starts with some fun turn of phrase that gives the meta description character – “For a steal” & “Sharp”.

Then goes on to list some of the products that searchers would be looking for (ties, suits and cufflinks) – before giving a closing call to action to encourage the users to shop now.

Finally, it incorporates a value add, informing the users that they can get discount up to 60%.

#7. Recipe box subscription (Gousto)

website meta description example

Ranking for the search term “recipe box subscription”, Gousto has done a great job at describing the brand’s USP upfront — before going on to expand on what they actually offer with its subscription box and finally ending with a high converting CTA.

#8. Best Travel Coffee Mugs (Good House Keeping)

SEO description

In this meat description example, we clearly know we are getting a list of 11 best travel coffee mugs which are judged on a number of relevant factors like temperature retention, leak-and spill-resistance, stability, comfort and durability.

#9. Netflix

Netflix description

Netflix homepage meta description sounds both natural and welcoming at the same time. There are quite a few popular keywords have been added as a part of the description along with the brand name. The use of the word “and more” at the end ignite the curiosity of the searchers.

#10. Prime Women

post Meta description example

Again a nicely written meta description example, as it clearly defines the demographic they are targeting (women over 50) and the issue that the demographic faces with maturing skin, and finally promise to recommend products that will solve the issues.

Common Question that you might have

Let’s wrap things up with a few common question that you might have regarding meta description:

How to add meta description in WordPress?

WordPress SEO plugin like Rank Math and Yoast SEO makes it super easy for you to add meta information for every page present on your site.

After installing any SEO plugin, you’ll find a new section beneath the WordPress editor.

Yoast SEO meta description

As you can probably guess from the screenshot, you can set a meta description for your post/page by typing it into the field labelled meta description.

The bar underneath will change colours to let you know if your meta description is under optimal length (less than 160). Orange colour indicates “too short”, red indicates “too long” and the green represents the perfect length.

How to add SEO description in Wix Editor?

With Wix, you don’t need to install any SEO plugin like WordPress. They have an in-built option to add meta information like Title, Keyword and description.

Here are the exact steps you need to take:

  1. Open the editor of the desired web page.
  2. Click Menus & Pages icon appearing on the left-hand side.
  3. Click the Show More icon next to the relevant page.
  4. Click SEO Google option.
  5. Finally, Enter your desired description under “What’s the page about? Add a description.”
Wix Meta description

How to add SEO description in Shopify?

In Shopify, the process of editing the homepage meta description is different from the process of editing the meta info of any other web page.

To edit your homepage description: open your Shopify admin panel >> Click Sales channel >> online store >> Preferences >> enter your preferred description in the box labelled “Homepage meta description”.

Shopify homepage meta title and description

To add/change the meta description of any other Shopify page: open your Shopify admin panel >> find the page which meat description you want to change >> scroll down to the bottom >> click “Edit website SEO” >> enter your meta description in the “description” box.

Shopify product meta description

Note: No matter which CMS you’re using, you’ll find similar “meta description field box” somewhere in your post editor.

If you don’t use a CMS, just paste the following tag into the <head> section of your HTML code.

<meta name="description" content="write your meta description here">

How to check the meta description of a webpage?

Sometime you might want to check your competitor’s web page meta description to get ideas and inspiration.

Fortunately checking meta description of any web page is very simple. Here is what you need to do:

  1. Open any web page in your browser.
  2. Press CTRL+U to open source code of the webpage.
  3. Press CTRL+F and search for “description” through search box.

Finally, you’ll see the exact SEO description set for that particular webpage.

Webpage source code

If you don’t want to follow all these steps, you can install a plugin called “Detailed” (created by Glen Allsopp).

This extension will show you all the important SEO information of a web page like EO title, description, robot meta tag, word count, etc.

Detailed seo extension

How To Find Pages That Are Missing Meta Descriptions

Wondering which page/post on your website is missing meta description?

No problem!

Finding all the pages which are missing meta description is a piece of cake with SEMrush audit tool.

Just run an SEO audit for your website and go to issues tab, there you will get a list of all the pages that are currently missing meta descriptions.

Missing meta description

Open all of the pages one by one and add a relevant meta description.

Apart from missing meta description, SEMrush’s audit tool will also let you know about any other SEO problem found on your website.

For example in the report below, you can see that 2 pages have duplicate meta description, 57 internet links are broken and 6 incorrect pages are found in the sitemap.

SEMrush seo audit reports

Activate Free Trial to run your first audit.

How to test your SEO meta description?

There is no fixed set of meta description rule that will work for you in every case.

It can be hard to tell whether an absorbing summary or a powerful CTA will do a better job of driving people to your website.

This is why it makes sense to test different meta description for your important pages to see how they impact your CTR.

Unfortunately, unlike other page elements, meta description can’t be A/B tested with full certainty.

However, by evaluating certain factors whenever you tweak your description, you can gain insights into the kind of description works best in your case.

Tools like Search Console allows you to track the CTR (Click-through-rates) for each of your post/pages over time.

Search console

You can keep track of this data in a spreadsheet and make note of the date that you have tweaked your description.

For example, if you want to test the effect of a new CTA in one of your page’s description, you can track the CTR of that page for a few months first, then add the new CTA and continue monitoring for next few months to compare both meta description success.

How to write meta descriptions: recap

With the rise of voice searches and the introduction of the rich card in SERP, Meta description has become more important than ever for SEO.

While the content of the meta description may not be directly used for ranking purpose, but it works like a short ad copy that help’s user decide whether they should click on a particular result or not.

So, having a well written interesting meta description can help you grab more clicks and traffic.

The guideline of writing a good meta description that gets maximum click is very simple. Here is a qucik recap of what makes a good description:

How to write a good meta description

  1. Highlight a clear solution or benefit people will get after clicking your post.
  2. Use the active voice to hold audience attention.
  3. Avoid non-alphuberic charcters.
  4. Include your target keyword in the description.
  5. Make it actionable but don’t overdo it.
  6. Keep each description original & unique.
  7. Wrap up everything under 160 characters.

That wraps it up for our guide to SEO meta descriptions in 2020.

If you have any question or suggestion, comment down below.

If you have any questions, drop us a comment below.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hi, I am Shivam Choudhary founder of Nerdblogging.com – A blog that helps online entrepreneurs start, grow, and scale their blog. Whether you are looking for the right advice to get your blog off the ground or proven strategies to accelerate your blog’s growth, I am here to help you get further. 

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