If you were confused by the meta description portion of your website grader report, be confused no more! On this page you’ll learn everything you need to know about meta descriptions, including how you can use them to better educate your website visitors about the content contained in the pages of your site.
What is a meta description?
A meta description is a tag that is set in the HTML (or code) for each specific page on your website. If you are looking at your website’s HTML, it will probably look something like this:
<meta name=”description” content=”This is a meta description for my webpage!”>
A meta description is designed to give people who have found your page through a search a small preview of what that page contains. The description can be set manually by editing the HTML above (replacing the portion in quotes after “content”), which is considered a best practice as far as SEO is concerned.
If a meta description is not manually set for a page, Google will usually try to pick one itself. Typically the meta description selected will come from the first few sentences of the article or page in question, or whatever Google thinks is most relevant to the user’s query.
How do meta descriptions help website visitors?
The meta description of a page or piece of content on your website is meant to help searchers determine whether or not your content will give them the answer they’re looking for. So by writing a manual meta description for each page on your website, you have an opportunity to tell searchers that that page contains, and perhaps whether or not it can supply that answer.
Meta descriptions that contain keywords also tell searchers that the results are relevant to their search. So if you are targeting the phrase “apples” with a page on your site, and this keyword already appears in your title tag, H1, and body copy, you should also put “apples” somewhere in your meta description. This will reaffirm that your page has something to do with apples. If the keyword doesn’t appear, the user may be confused or assume your site has nothing to do with their query.
Do meta descriptions have any impact on ranking?
Meta descriptions do not directly impact your website’s ranking in searches. What this means is that putting your targeted keywords in a page’s meta description won’t help you rank any higher for that keyword, as it might if you put that same keyword in a page’s title, H1 tag, or body copy. Google announced in 2009 that their ranking algorithms did not include meta descriptions, and this has not changed.
However, meta descriptions can indirectly impact your ranking, because they can lead to more people coming to your website who read your meta description and are interested in the content of your page. If your meta description is for some reason misleading, these visitors may quickly leave your site, or bounce — and the higher your bounce rate, the worse you’ll rank for your targeted keywords. This is how a poor meta description can have an indirect impact on your SEO.
How can I write strong meta descriptions?
The first thing to be aware of is that there is a character limit on meta descriptions. This limit is roughly 155-160 characters. If your description is longer, Google will truncate it.
Secondly, make sure that the meta description you write for each page is unique. Even if search engines don’t use these descriptions to determine how well you rank for a keyword, they do prefer each page of a website to have different text associated with it. So the best way to signify to both users and search engines that you have a wide variety of pages is to write a variety of meta descriptions.
To write a strong meta description, try putting yourself in the shoes of the person you think will be searching for the page you are working on. For example, if you are writing a page to answer the question “how do widgets work?” your meta description might be something like “wondering how widgets work? This page will tell you the answer!”
Your meta description should be a good mix of content that is in plain, easy to comprehend English and compelling ad copy that makes visitors want to click and learn more. Since you only have a limited amount of space, you will have to keep things simple, but you should also try to make searchers curious, excited, and interested.
Hopefully this page gave you some helpful tips on how setting manual meta descriptions can improve your website! If you still have questions about the topic of meta descriptions, or need any help deciphering the results of your report, feel free to contact us at any time. We’d be happy to lend a hand!