How to make use of meta descriptions

September 25, 2014

A meta description is a short text description of a web page. This text is never actually seen on the web page itself, but is used by search engines and is seen on search engine results pages (SERPs). To help me explain where they can be seen, here is an example of a search result shown by Google:

Meta descriptions on a Google search

The meta description is shown within the search result with any words matching the search term highlighted in bold. If you have not added a meta description to your web page, the search engine will write one for you. Google might just take the first few sentences from the page, or it might just pick a block that contains the search phrase. Either way, you cannot guarantee that it will be the best part of text from your page and it’s not likely to convince the searcher to click.

Making use of meta descriptions is your chance to entice the searcher to click on your result rather than going to another website.

Each page on your website should have a relevant meta description giving a clear and accurate description of the content of that page. How you add your meta descriptions will depend on the software you are using to build your website. Even the free website builders tend to have the ability to allow you to add meta descriptions to your web pages, so be sure to do your research and find out how to add them on your website.

The general advice is to keep meta descriptions within 156 characters. Although there is no guarantee that you’ll get the full 156 characters seen as each search engine is different.

To write a great meta description, tell the searcher what they will find when they click your link. It should be accurate too, as the last thing you want to do is to disappoint a visitor this will increase your bounce rate (read more about bounce rate here). Think about what the website visitor is going to be looking for and reassure them that they will find that answer on your web page.

You should include some keywords in your meta description, but make them natural. Do not just fill the meta description box with a list of keywords, this will look spammy in the search engine result and will not convince people to click through.

Remember that you can change and experiment with your meta descriptions. Try changing a few and write them with different approaches. Monitor them and see if one way dramatically increases your click through rate.