Meta descriptions are the short blurbs that appear under the title of your web page in search engine results pages (SERPs). A meta description is your 3-second elevator pitch. Based on what you say (or don't say), potential readers will decide whether or not they want to click on your page or keep scrolling.
While meta descriptions are not a ranking signal, they hugely impact your user's behavior. You may have the best content on your pages, but if your page title and meta description suck, you are not going to get that all-important click.
Meta descriptions provide potential readers with a summary of what your page is about and encourage them to click through to your site. Meta descriptions are important because:
- They help improve your click-through rate (CTR) from SERPs.
- They give you an opportunity to communicate what your page is about to potential clients.
- They can help improve your SEO by including relevant keywords. Google tends to highlight keywords that are searched in the meta description, giving more confidence to your potential reader that your page has what they are looking for.
- As much as it is important to increase your CTR, it is also important to prevent people who are not within your target audience to click on your page. You might ask, "Well, don't we want as many clicks and people coming to our site?". Not necessarily. You only want people within your target audience to click and land on your pages. You don't want others who aren't going to be your customers to click on your pages and click away. So having a compelling meta description will discourage people who are not in your target audience to give your page a miss - this is a good thing.
Still not convinced that meta descriptions are important? Here are a few more reasons:
- They can help to improve your organic search traffic.
- They can be used to target specific keywords.
- They can be used to persuade potential clients to visit your site.
- They can also dissuade people who are not in your target audience from clicking and coming to your pages. Those users aren't your ideal customers, so they are unlikely to become paying clients. Doing so will reduce your bounce rate.
Here are some tips for creating a compelling, click-worthy meta description.
- Start by writing a brief summary of your page in just a few sentences. Describe and summarize what they are going to get from the page. Highlight the benefits, results, and outcomes someone's going to get by reading your page.
- In those sentences, include the most important points that your page will cover.
- Use keywords that are relevant to your page's topic.
- Write in an engaging style and encourage potential clients to click through to your site. Don't make them boring! Entice your readers to click on your page by giving a compelling meta description.
- Try to keep your meta descriptions around 150-160 characters. This is because Google will cut off lengthy meta descriptions. It's actually a little more complicated than that. Google doesn't count the number of characters and then only takes the first 150 or 160 characters. The Google SERP container is <<>> pixels wide on desktop and <<>> pixels on mobile, so they'll show whatever text they can display within that container. Any text that doesn't fit in within that container gets truncated. That's why you should keep your meta description within a certain character limit.
- Don't stuff keywords for the sake of ranking. As I mentioned before, meta descriptions aren't a ranking factor. So no amount of keywords will make your page stand out and get higher rankings. Meta descriptions are for humans - to read and understand what the page is about.
- Don't duplicate your meta descriptions. All your pages must have unique meta descriptions. Duplicate meta descriptions confuse search engines. Imagine 5 of your pages have the same exact meta description, search engines won't know which page to index and show for certain keywords or topics.
- 60%-70% of the time, Google overrides your meta descriptions to help users understand why a particular page is relevant to what they searched for, but it's still best practice to write a compelling meta description.