How to Write an SEO Optimized Meta Description
When it comes time to perfect your website's SEO, understanding and maximizing the effectiveness of meta descriptions should be somewhere at the top of your to-do list. Strategic and well-thought-out descriptions directly influence your click-throughs in search engines, meaning more organic traffic on your site and higher all-around rankings. With the most character real-estate available of all the major meta tag types, meta descriptions are a unique space that allows your website to stand out.
Writing SEO-optimized meta descriptions is all about precision and tactics, which becomes even more important for mobile pages. When you keep in mind that over half of all global website visits come from mobile devices, learning SEO practices that cater to mobile pages becomes critical. In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about what meta descriptions are, how long they should be (accounting for various platforms and devices) and most importantly, how to write them so that your content is enticing and competitive.
What Is a Meta Description?
Simply put, a meta description (also called a meta description tag) is an attribute that summarizes your page. It's a short description that can be used for both search engines and users to preview page content before the page is opened. You can remember it like this - the meta in meta description means something that refers to itself, and that is exactly what it is: the information about the information on your page.
It's worth noting that meta descriptions are often confused with SERP snippets. In fact, in some cases, it may actually appear to be the same. But a meta description will live in the HTML at the "head" of the webpage along with the title tag and is controlled by the page creator. A SERP snippet is what appears to the searcher as the webpage description. Because engines like Google have automated the SERP process, sometimes the snippet is not the designated meta description (Google can generate snippets based on the search). But, that is not always the case, so honing your meta description writing skills is still important for best SEO practices.
Meta descriptions also don't appear on your actual webpage, existing solely in the source code. In addition to being what should appear under the page URL, it can also be the text that follows your page when it is shared.
In the HTML, it will look something like this:
<title>How to Write an SEO Optimized Meta Description | Conductor </title><meta name="description" content="Everything you need to know about meta descriptions for best SEO optimization including character limit, keywords & search snippets."/>
And what website users will see is this:
So what does all that really mean? Well, although meta descriptions aren't used directly in ranking algorithms, they are essentially the first impression someone has of your page in a SERP. This is important for two particular reasons.
First is all about appeal. In a long list of search results, the meta description will play a huge part in why someone will want to visit your page over the one above or below it. It's a chance to prove that your page has the best and most relevant information. That means good optimization is not just about targeted keywords (more on that soon) but also creativity. You can think of your meta descriptions as an extension of your ad text, so make it catchy, inviting and helpful. In the mobile sphere, this is doubly relevant, as users are looking for quick and informative answers and won't spend time scrolling through more than a few search results.
Which is exactly why the second thing to remember is that sites like Google use CTR to rank results they believe will be most useful to the searcher. So the more page visits you have, the higher up your page will appear in the SERP, making meta descriptions a key part of your SEO practices.
Ideal Meta Description Length
The nature of where meta descriptions exist and how they are viewed means length is a big part of how effective they can be. When it comes to how long a meta description should be, you will hear a few different answers. That's because meta description character limit has not only changed over time but varies from search engine to search engine, can be counted in both length and pixel size and is often truncated on mobile devices. The ultimate goal is to write something that will display in its entirety and deliver the value of a complete and insightful message that will boost clicks.
Here are the most common and generally accepted lengths you need to know:
- The recommended meta description length is 120-158 characters.
- Google defines its meta description character limit at 920 pixels, which is about 150-158 characters.
- Bing and Yahoo! both have a 980-pixel limit, up to 168 characters.
- Most SERPs on mobile devices will only show 680 pixels, 120 characters.
At the end of the day, the best SEO meta description practice regarding length is remembering that sometimes less is more. Of course, writing something too short will prevent your description from getting the unique attention it deserves and risks coming off as uninformed or too vague. To find the sweet spot, you want to create a snippet that gets right to the point, with the most targeted and important information within the first 120 characters. That way, no matter where users are finding your site, you have the best chance of encouraging click-throughs.
How To Write a Meta Description
Because effective meta descriptions are all about eye-catching and strategic wording, knowing the best SEO practices for writing them will make all the difference between someone visiting your site or scrolling right past it. When beginning to write, you want to keep 3 things in mind: Targeted Keywords, a Call to Action and Individuality.
Highlighted keywords look like this:
The key to finding and incorporating quality targeted keywords starts with doing Keyword Research. Once you have identified the best words and phrases to use, make sure you naturally add them to your description. They should not cloud the meaning or readability of your descriptions, and you want to avoid keyword stuffing at all costs.
Call to Action
Remember that the end goal of a meta description is to get page clicks. You want people to read this description and feel confident that your page will have what they are looking for. This means that writing with a sense of urgency and providing a CTA is key. At the same time, be careful not to sound like sales spam. You want to give an imperative while being as genuine and human as possible. Needless to say, the information you provide also needs to be specific to the content of your page. Trying to trick people by false advertising will not only build distrust in your online presence and increase your bounce rate but can get you penalized by the search engine itself.
Being individual is not just about having original content and ideas. It's also a practical SEO tool. You want to be highly relevant at all times, so duplicating a meta description across your website's pages is an unhelpful and bad practice. Instead, having unique descriptions on each page allows you to cast a wider net and apply various targeted keywords. The result is reaching more people and having more than one of your pages appear in each SERP.
Getting to Work
Developing good SEO practices is an ongoing process. It's about taking the time to learn and adjust to the demands of your specific market. That being said, meta descriptions are one integral part of a bigger picture that incorporates a diversity of SEO strategies. As you focus your attention on perfecting your own practices and procedures, enlisting the assistance of an SEO platform is a great way to grow your organic marketing efforts and measure performance.