SEO 101: The Anatomy of a Meta Description

You’ll find the meta description bundled together with the title tag in the metadata for every webpage, typically below or near the title tag in the head of the source code. The meta description’s whole purpose is to coherently describe the page and its goal. 

While the meta description, unfortunately, doesn’t directly impact a page’s rankings, it can impact the clickthrough rate for the page. The search engines may choose to show the meta description under the blue underlined page title in the search results. As such, it is a vital area in which to summarize the page’s content and add a call to action that will entice that searcher to click on your page rather than the competitions’ pages. 

Here’s what the meta description should look like in the search results as well as in your code.

The meta description is not an on-page SEO element in the way a title tag also appears in each page’s window tab, but it’s an essential part of improving the user experience in the search results and, hopefully, the click-through rate. 

Follow the three guidelines below to write meta descriptions that can positively impact your SEO performance.

Keywords

While using keywords in the meta description won’t improve your chances of ranking, the search engines do highlight the keywords that searchers use in their search query by bolding them in the search result. As you describe your page, make sure to use the keywords you used in your title tag, as well as any additional keywords that wouldn’t fit into that tag’s 55-60 characters. As you do so, make sure that your meta description is grammatically correct and reads well. Overusing keywords just to get them bolded can be a real turn-off to searchers.

Call-to-Action

A best practice for forming clickable meta descriptions is ending with a call to action. Why should searchers click on your search result? What can they do, or what will they be able to receive on your site that sets you apart from competitors? If you offer free shipping, the widest selection, the ability to register or learn more, all of these could be used as calls to action at the end of the meta description.

Length

Use all 155 characters, or get as close as possible without going over. After you hit a few characters over this sweet spot, the dreaded ellipsis will appear, cutting off your meta description so that your hard work is not completely visible to searchers. 

Use all of the characters to maximize your search result’s footprint on the page. The more characters that you use, the more lines of text your meta description takes up, and the further you push the other search results down the page. It becomes a visibility advantage for you if your meta description is above the page cut off and searchers don’t have to scroll further to find what they are looking for. 

Lastly, no matter what you do, don’t just copy two sentences from your body copy. Google is perfectly capable of pulling copy from your page to fill the page description if it wants to. Write a custom meta description to attempt to influence what Google displays in the search results. That’s taking advantage of your opportunity to increase clicks. 

The meta description may not be the most exciting aspect of on-page SEO optimization, and it may not improve your chances of ranking, but its influence on the searcher’s click decision makes it well worth the extra effort to optimize it.

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