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Resources 8 min read
Written by Natalie Yelton
Content Writer @ Galactic Fed
Expert reviewed by Dallin Porter
Communications Manager @ Galactic Fed
Published 10 Nov 2020
Meta descriptions sound somewhat techy. If you’re not familiar with them, you may be inclined to think they are buried deep in code only accessible and visible to an experienced web developer. Stick with us!
The truth is, you most likely interact with several meta descriptions every day.
When you search for something using a search engine - take Google, for example - a search engine results page (SERP) is shown to you, and each result includes a meta description. Google and other search engines pull meta descriptions from the companies’ web pages displayed to you based on what you’re trying to find.
Every page on your website can have a corresponding meta description. If you weren’t aware of this, your website could have important pages sitting with blank meta descriptions as you read this—sad face emoji.
A meta description is a concise paragraph of text used to summarise the content of a web page. It’s also referred to as a snippet.
Now to get a little techy, this text is placed in the HTML of your website. It is possible to do this without a web developer; keep reading to learn where you can write your own meta descriptions.
However, you can leave your web pages without meta descriptions. Google will create a meta description for you, usually using text that appears near the top of the page. If you chose to let Google write your meta descriptions, you could miss the chance to make a connection with potential customers online and improve your click-through rate (CTR.)
As a minimum, you should most definitely write meta descriptions for:
Every page on your website has metadata sitting behind it, telling search engines what it is. Meta titles, meta descriptions, heading tags, and alt text (meaningful text that describes images, illustrations, and video) make up metadata. Google and other search engines use your metadata to determine whether pages on your website are relevant enough to display on a SERP.
Meta descriptions form part of a meta tag. A meta tag consists of:
Here’s an example of a meta title and meta description from NBC News coverage of the 2020 Presidential Elections:
It’s worth noting that Google doesn’t use meta descriptions to rank your web pages on SERPs.
It comes down to improving where you end up on the SERP indirectly.
A compelling meta title and description can convince people to click through to your site from the SERP. Google does measure your CTR so the higher your CTR, the greater chance of ranking higher on your targeted SERP organically.
You can also improve where you rank on your target SERP by paying attention to headings and subheadings (H1, H2, and H3.) Headings and subheadings are particularly relevant for blog posts and pages with a lot of content on them.
Search engines crawl your site, and headings stand out to them. Ensure they are relevant to the content on the page and accurately reflect the content that follows them. Don’t stuff headings with keywords, as this may result in a search engine penalty.
The best meta descriptions are to-the-point and give just the right amount of information, persuading the person reading them to click through to find out more.
To write a great meta description, make sure to:
The main goal of every meta description you write should be to add value and drive click-throughs. Ensuring your meta description is between 120 and 160 characters long can also help. Google has changed the maximum character count for meta descriptions in the past, extending to a whopping 320 characters back in 2017, only to bring down the limit to 160 the following year.
Writing compelling copy that drives click-throughs takes skill. Also, you need to properly place metadata in the HTML of your website for it to function correctly.
Yoast is an excellent resource with a free version for updating your metadata, without a web developer’s help to get you started at a basic level.
On most websites, you can add the Yoast plugin, and it will give you guidance on title and description character count, keyword placement, and more. Yoast even provides a preview of how your meta description will appear on the SERP:
Source: Yoast SEO
Facebook’s meta description is 151 characters, it includes a clear call to action (create an account or log in,) and it explains why people should act (to share photos and videos, send messages, and get updates.)
DoorDash’s meta description includes its primary keyword (delivery & takeout.) It also contains a compelling call-to-action (breakfast, lunch, dinner and more, delivered safely to your door,) and hits the maximum character count on the dot at 160.
LinkedIn’s meta description leads with an attention-grabbing membership count and follows with a clear CTA inviting people to ‘manage your professional identity.’ They’ve provided a brief ‘why’, telling people they can ‘access knowledge, insights, and opportunities.’
Maybe not. More specifically, Google could be using part of your meta description. Research by Moz found Google used the exact text for only 40% of meta descriptions.
It’s worth testing different lengths of meta descriptions to see how they fare, particularly for key landing pages that you hope to convert customers through. As a guiding rule, Galactic Fed recommends getting the most critical aspects of your meta description - the CTA and why people should act - into the first 120 words to ensure it makes Google’s cut. Google also appears to favor complete sentences, so make sure to save room for punctuation at the end.
Don’t be worried if Google will use your exact meta description or not. Focus on writing engaging copy that’s useful and nudges people to click.
If you’re struggling to get people to engage with your meta descriptions, get the help of professionals. Galactic Fed has a whole team of experts who craft engaging content that converts every day. We’d love to help you get your metadata in top shape so that Google finds it easily. Reach new customers and grow your business with compelling meta descriptions.
Content Writer @ Galactic Fed