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What is a meta description?

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A meta description is an HTML attribute that provides a brief summary of a website page. Search engines such as Google often display meta descriptions in search results, which can affect click-through rates.

Examples:

  • Meta description example
  • Meta description example
  • Code sample


Optimal length
The meta description can be of any length, but Google typically cuts the snippet to ~ 155–160 characters. It is best to keep meta descriptions long enough that they are descriptive enough, so we recommend descriptions between 50–160 characters. Keep in mind that the “optimal” length will vary depending on the situation, and should be your primary goal to provide value and drive clicks.

Optimal format
Meta description tags, while not tied to search engine rankings, are extremely important in getting user click-throughs from SERPs. These short paragraphs are an opportunity for a webmaster to “advertise” content to searchers, and searchers decide whether the content is relevant and contains the information they are seeking from their search query.

A page’s meta description should be read sensibly (in a natural, active, non-spam way) employing keywords that the page is targeting, but also creates a compelling description that a searcher would like to click. It should be directly relevant to the page he describes, and is unique from the description of other pages.

Google ranking factor?
Google announced in September of 2009 that neither the meta description nor the meta keyword factor in Google’s ranking algorithm for web search.

However, meta descriptions can affect the CTR (click-through-rate) of a page on Google which can positively affect a page’s ability to rank.

For this reason, among others, it is important to put some effort into meta description.

Seo best practices
Write compelling ad copy
The meta description tag serves to copy the ad. It draws readers from the SERP to a website, and is thus a very important and important part of search marketing. Creating a readable, compelling description using key keywords can improve the click-through rate for a given webpage. To maximize click-through rates on search engine result pages, it is important to keep in mind that Google and other search engines give bold keywords in the description when they match the descriptions. This bold text can attract searchers’ eyes, so you should match your descriptions to the search terms as much as possible.

  • Meta description written as ad copy
  • Avoid duplicate meta description tags


With the title tag, it is important that the meta description on each page is unique. Otherwise, you will end up with SERP results that look like this:

Avoid duplicate meta description examples
If possible, however, there is no substitute for the original description that you write for each page.

Do not include double quotation marks
Any time quotation marks are used in the HTML of a meta description, when Google appears on the SERP, it truncates that description on the quotation mark. To prevent this from happening, your best bet is to remove all non-alphanumeric characters from the meta description. If quotation marks are important in your meta description, you can use HTML units instead of double quotation marks to prevent truncation.

Sometimes it is not okay to write a meta description
Although traditional arguments hold that it is universal for engines to write a good meta description rather than to scrape a given web page, this is not always the case. To identify whether you should write your meta description, use this general rule of thumb:

If a page is targeting between one and three heavily searched words or phrases, write your own meta description that targets users who perform the search query including those words.

If the page is targeting long-tail traffic (three or more keywords), it may sometimes be prudent to allow engines to populate a material description themselves. If a webmaster writes a meta description in the page’s code, what they want to write may actually be different from the relevance they naturally create based on the query.

One caveat for intentionally dropping the meta description tag: Keep in mind that social sharing sites like Facebook usually use the meta description tag of a page as the descriptionWithout meta description tags, social sharing sites can only use the first text they can find. Based on the first text of your page, it may not create a good user experience for people facing your content.

Sometimes it is okay not to write the meta description
Although traditional arguments hold that it is universal for engines to write a good meta description rather than eliminate a given web page, this is not always the case. Use this general rule of thumb to know if you should write your meta description:

If a page is targeting between one and three heavily searched words or phrases, write your own meta description that targets users who perform the search query including those words.

If the page is targeting long-tail traffic (three or more keywords), it can sometimes be prudent to allow engines to populate a meta description on their own. The reason is simple: when search engines pull together a meta description, they always display the keywords and surrounding phrases that the user has searched for. If a webmaster writes a meta description in the page’s code, what they want to write may actually be different from the relevance that the engines naturally create based on the query.

One caveat for intentionally dropping meta description tags: Keep in mind that social sharing sites like Facebook usually use the meta description tag of a page as the description that appears when the page is shared on their sites. Without meta description tags, social sharing sites can only use the first text they can find. Based on the first text of your page, it may not create a good user experience for people facing your content through social sharing.

Extracting meta descriptions from other HTML text
Head up: search engines will not always use your meta description
In some cases, the search engine may exceed the meta description specified by a webmaster in a page’s HTML. In a nutshell, when this will happen is unexpected, but it often happens when Google doesn’t think the existing meta description adequately responds to the user’s query and identifies a snippet from the target page that is better than the searcher’s query.