Search engine optimization (SEO) has tons of moving parts and elements that make it all come together. One of those elements is the meta description, which sometimes gets left behind (but definitely shouldn’t). If you’re trying to wrap your head around meta descriptions and the role they play in your website’s SEO, read on to learn what they are, why they’re important, and how to create successful ones.
What Is a Meta Description?
Screenshot via Google
A meta description is a short explanation of what your page is about. You can use these short descriptive snippets on blog posts, web pages, or your overall website. The meta description sits within the meta tags – the tags that describe your page – of your page’s code. With the meta description in place, search engines will learn what your page is about to help them decide its relevance to search queries.
Where to Find Your Meta Description
Want to see what your meta description currently looks like? Head to your website or a page on your website. Right-click on the page and click “View Page Source” or “Page Source” (this can vary depending on your browser). You’ll see a tag that starts with “<meta name=”description…” if your page currently has one written for it. If you don’t see that tag, you don’t have one set.
Why Is a Meta Description Important for SEO?
When you use a meta description correctly, it can boost your page’s SEO. That doesn’t mean that your meta description will always help you rank in Google and other search engines, nor will it have a direct impact on your ranking. Still, it can help.
The primary goal of the meta description is to summarize your page. That summary can indirectly influence your search engine rankings in two ways:
- Your meta description tells search engines about the content on your page. This helps a search engine include your page in relevant search results, giving it more visibility.
- A meta description helps searchers know what content to expect from your page. If it appears to be highly relevant to their search query, there’s a good chance they’ll click on your page. More clicks on your website in the search engine results pages (SERPs) can lead to better rankings.
How to Add a Meta Description for Your Site, Posts, and Pages
You’ll need to edit your <head> tags to add any meta tags, including the meta description, to your website, posts, or pages. To add a meta description for your full website, place it in the <head> tags of your website. For posts and pages, edit the <head> tags for each separate post or page. W3schools.com details the exact code to use for your meta tags and description.
If you use WordPress, an easier method is to use a plugin that handles the code for you. Yoast and All in One SEO (AIO SEO) are two popular plugins that take care of meta tags and other search engine optimization elements. You can change your meta descriptions directly in the plugin’s settings.
How to Write a Meta Description
Like the optimization techniques you use to write web content and blog posts, you can follow some best practices to guide your meta description writing. Let’s take a look:
A meta description should run no longer than 160 characters, as this is where Google tends to cut words off. In most cases, you’ll want to try to stay under 155 characters to make sure your full meta description gets included in the search results.
A meta description should be clear, concise, and actionable. Therefore, use active voice, don’t get too wordy, and make sure your message comes across loud and clear in the short space you have. You should also try to add a quick call-to-action in your description, like Get free shipping! or Learn more about…”.
Your meta description needs to be unique for each page and post. This helps search engines understand what your page is about without confusing it with other pages on your site. Plus, searchers want to know why they should click on that page, so be as specific as possible in your descriptions.
Meta descriptions should include your target keyword somewhere in them. When someone searches for that keyword and Google pulls up your page as a result, the search engine will also highlight the keyword in your meta description. This instantly signals to searchers that your page is probably relevant to what they just searched.
Create SEO-Friendly Meta Descriptions to Grow Organic Search
Meta descriptions are one of many elements that can increase your search relevance and cause people to want to click over to your site.
Did you know that you can also tweak your metadata to help Facebook understand how you want your shares to look when people share your pages on their feeds? Check out our guide to Open Graph Tags to learn how to do it.
Once you’ve mastered the art of meta descriptions, keep tabs on how much they’re impacting your website traffic – and you don’t even have to leave WordPress to do it. Install the Google Analytics Dashboard for WordPress plugin to view valuable website metrics right inside your WordPress dashboard, such as your top five traffic sources, your 10 most-viewed pages, page views, bounce rate, and more.