What is The Meta Description?
A Meta Description is a small 160 character (or less) snippet of text that summarizes the page’s content. The Meta description is contained in a tag in HTML that sits at the top of the code for that page between the <head> and </head> tags.
What Does The Meta Description Do?
The meta description is almost as important as the title tag. It tells Google and the other search engines not only what’s on the page in a short summary, but it also displays this in the search engine results.
In some cases, the Meta Description also will show up as the description when someone shares your page on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.
How Do I Optimize The Meta Description For SEO?
Optimizing the description is very important to your internal, on-page SEO strategy. Besides for the two purposes that the description tag serves above, it also is there to help real humans using search engines to find what they’re looking for. If your description does its job, people will click your link in the search results and land on your website.
While it is also said that there is no direct ranking benefit from optimizing your title or description tags, Google does watch the CTR – Click Through Rate. CTR is a measurement by where Google watches how many times your listing shows up on the results page, and how many times people click the link. Obviously, a higher click through rate is better, and it’s also said that sites with higher CTRs will be moved up.
Indirectly, this is why optimization of your meta description is so important. You want people to come to your site by clicking on the link in the search results, so if your description seems very closely related to what the person is searching for, then there’s going to be a higher chance they’ll click your link.
Meta Description Character Length
While there is no single “correct” number for character length that magically makes the description perfectly optimized, a general rule of thumb is to make your description between 135 and 160 characters in length (including spaces and punctuation). Google may sometimes add extra info to your listing, or show more if they feel it’s relevant. Ultimately it’s up to Google on what they display for your site.
One example where Google has actually displayed a longer description is for Yoast’s meta description search result:
Voice and Intent
Depending on what the page contains that you’re optimizing the meta description for, you have to choose the right “voice” for the description. If you’re promoting a product or service, the description should be actionable and written in an active voice (“Revolutionary New Product Revealed: The GoatPhone! Lean About It Now!”).
If the description is for a book review, you might give people the basic information about the book. “Book Review: The Search For Yeti by Tom Thumb (ISBN: 1o3nij3b4kj) A lone man and his dog search for the elusive yeti in upper Mongolia. 5 star book!” In this example, I included the ISBN number in case people are searching by ISBN, which actually happens quite a bit.
For products, it wouldn’t hurt to include the Barcode/SKU number or product code so that your products come up for barcode searches as well.
Focus Keyword In Description
The focus keyword should match the keyword in the title. In my case, my name, “Son Koral” is the primary focus keyword shown in the screenshot above. The focus keyword should be as far towards the front of the sentence as possible. This can indicate to Google how important the keyword really is to the page or site.
Google also highlights the keyword if it matches the search term. So, if for example, someone was to search “Who Is Son Koral”, my name would be highlighted in the search result as it matches the search term. The highlighting helps to relate the result to the search query for the user and gives an indication to what kind of relevancy the result has to said search.
Above All, Descriptions MUST Be Unique
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen websites that for one reason or another, use the same meta descriptions for Every. Single. Page.
If you’re optimizing your site, then one of the low hanging fruits would be to change all meta descriptions so they’re unique and accurately describe every page, every archive, every blog post, etc…
By not doing this, you’re doing yourself and your potential site visitors a disservice, and missing a chance to really show what your content is about.
Also, Google can penalize sites that aren’t optimized properly in this area, so make sure you do this.