A meta description is an important aspect of your overall search engine optimisation (SEO) performance. It’s a snippet of up to 155 characters which summarises a page’s content and shows in search engine results pages (SERP).
Although there is no direct SEO impact from the meta description; it can improve your click-through rate. CTR is a key metric because Google uses it as a way of working out whether a site is a good result. The better your meta description, the more likely users are to click.
Once more people start clicking, Google will consider you to be a high-quality result and give you a better rank. With this in mind, optimising your meta description is just as important as other on-page content.
We’re going to highlight some of the things to consider when creating your meta description.
Keep it around 155 characters
The length of your meta description will depend on your content and the message you want to share. When looking at some of the top search engine results, descriptions tend to be around 121-156 characters long. Yoast SEO recommends this limit as it’s generally enough space to get a message across while still being concise.
It’s worth remembering that you can’t control what Google displays in search results. Sometimes it’ll display a meta description and other times it takes snippets of your copy. To be on the safe side, we recommend keeping it under 155 so that you can guarantee it won’t be cut short if Google uses it.
Use an active voice and include a CTA
A meta description acts as an invitation to click on your page. You have to make sure it’s actionable and appealing. Think about what would make a search engine user click through to your page and combine this with a clear call to action (CTA). Try to address users directly and persuade them that they’ll benefit from clicking, for example:
This example uses an active voice and tells readers precisely what they will achieve by clicking. Try to think of the page you’re describing as a product you’re aiming to sell.
Always use your keyword or phrase
Google will be more likely to display your meta description in search results if it includes your keyword. Plus, if a searcher notices part of their query in your description – they’ll probably be more tempted to click.
Make sure it aligns with your content
A misleading description is likely to increase your bounce rate, meaning more users will exit once they reach the landing page. Plus, Google will probably penalise your site if for providing misleading or ‘clickbait’ copy.
On top of potential penalisation from Google, things like higher bounce rates will lower the trust people have in your company. It’s best to make sure your description matches your on-page content.
Make it unique
When deciding on a meta description, we recommend making it as unique as possible. If there are a number of similar descriptions on results pages, it’s less likely a user will be able to make a quick decision.
A blank meta description would probably be more effective than duplicated copy. In the case of it being blank, Google would resort to a snippet from your page containing your target keyword.
That being said, it’s always best to try and write your own, actionable description that is unique to your competitors.
Don’t duplicate your own meta descriptions
Keeping your own content unique is just as important as having unique content to competitors. You’d likely be penalised for having two duplicate pages on your site, and the same goes for your meta descriptions.
If you have multiple pages or posts that are similar, then it’s easy to get into a habit of providing a standard meta description. It’s important to remember that unique meta descriptions will give you a better click-through rate.
You can use tools like Ubersuggest to check whether your meta descriptions are unique or not. You’ll find a ‘duplicate meta descriptions’ tab which allows you to enter your site domain and check for self-plagiarism.
How to use Yoast SEO to write better meta descriptions
We highly recommend using Yoast SEO as a WordPress plugin. Yoast SEO covers meta description writing as part of their overall SEO materials.
You can use Yoast’s Google Preview tool to preview what your post will look like in Google’s search results. You’re also able to edit within the tool and view on both desktop and mobile. Here is a desktop preview for this page:
Yoast SEO also provides you with SEO analysis, including:
- Checking the meta description length
- Whether you’ve included your keyphrase in your description
Your content will have a focus keyphrase – which is the search term you want the page to rank for. As we touched on earlier, if you want users to click on your page, it’s best to have this in your meta description.
As well as using your focus keyphrase in the meta description, Yoast SEO will be checking how often you mention it within your copy. It will check if you use it enough as well as if you’re using it too much (keyword stuffing).
Generally speaking, you’ll only need to refer to your keyphrase once within your description.
Aiming for a green bullet for your meta description
You might have read our Yoast SEO guide when we discussed the green, red and orange bullet system. If you don’t refer to your keyphrase in the meta description, you’ll be given a red bullet. To achieve a green bullet, your keywords should be in the correct order.
Optimising your meta descriptions
Meta descriptions are a key part of the overall user experience of your website. They have the power to boost your ranking and show Google that your landing page is a relevant and high-quality solution for search engine users.
Our final piece of advice would be to try and be as unique and interesting as possible while making your CTA clear and easy to follow. By following this approach consistently and implementing your focus keyphrase, you’ll likely see more organic traffic over time.
If you have any questions or need help optimising your web pages for search engines, get in touch with our SEO team.