What is a meta description?
The meta description is an HTML tag you can set for a post or page. It’s a summary of the content that appears below the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) title.
The meta description and title are necessary signals for search engines to understand the page’s content and how it can be relevant to users’ queries.
Is meta description a ranking factor?
Meta descriptions are not a direct ranking factor in Google or other major search engines. It means the meta description tags’ content does not directly impact web pages’ rank.
Even though descriptions do not directly affect rankings, they can indirectly improve SEO efforts. The unique and well-written, good meta description can attract users to click on a search result in SERP and increase your website’s click-through rate (CTR).
Why set a meta description?
The meta description is an essential component of SEO because it helps search engines understand what your page is about. The unique meta description can make it outstanding and visible on Google’s search results.
It also appears in the SERPs, so it’s an excellent opportunity to include keywords and persuade users to click through to your site. More relevant and outstanding meta description tags can improve organic CTR and increase search traffic for your website.
How long should a meta description be?
A meta description’s optimal length is between 150-160 characters. This gives you enough space to include relevant keywords and a clear call to action without overcrowding the SERP. If the meta description length exceeds the value a search engine accepts, it will be trimmed automatically.
What is the historical timeline of meta-description?
The World Wide Web (WWW) was in its infancy, and web pages were primarily text-based with minimal formatting. Meta-tags, including meta-description, were introduced to webmasters to provide additional information about their web pages to the search.
Netscape, one of the first popular web browsers, introduced support for meta-tags in the HTML code of web pages. This allowed web admins to include meta-description tags in their web pages to provide a summary or description of the page’s content.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) officially standardised the meta-description tag as part of the HTML 2.0 specification. This standardised meta-description tag allowed web admins to include a concise summary of their web page’s content, which some engines would display in search results.
The late 1990s
Meta-description tags for SEO gained traction as search engines became more popular and sophisticated. Webmasters started optimising their meta-descriptions with relevant keywords and persuasive language to improve click-through rates from search results.
The early 2000s
Meta descriptions continued to be used for SEO purposes, and webmasters experimented with different approaches to optimise them for search; however, some started to devalue the importance of meta-description tags in their ranking algorithms due to abuse and keyword stuffing.
Despite the reduced emphasis on meta-descriptions by search engines, many webmasters continued to use them to provide a concise summary of their web page’s content and improve click-through rates from search results. The focus shifted from keyword stuffing to crafting compelling and relevant meta-descriptions that entice users to click on the search result.
Google announced that meta descriptions wouldn’t affect a page’s ranking directly but would still display them in search results. This led to some websites neglecting descriptions, but they remained an important tool for accurately summarising the content of a page for users.
Google began rewriting meta descriptions in May 2018. This change was made to improve the quality and relevance of search results. It aimed to provide more accurate and informative snippets in search results to help users better understand the content of a web page before clicking on it. In a blog post published on May 14, 2018, Google announced that they would sometimes generate their meta descriptions for web pages when they believed the generated report would provide a better user experience.
Google’s decision to rewrite meta descriptions was based on their machine learning algorithms that analysed the content of web pages and attempted to generate more meaningful and relevant snippets. However, Google also noted that they would continue to use meta descriptions provided by web admins when they were deemed more relevant to the user’s search query.
It’s essential to write meta descriptions that accurately reflect the content of a page and encourage users to click through to your website, as a high click-through rate can influence your search engine ranking. Over the years, the length limit for meta descriptions has varied between search engines. As of 2021, Google displays up to 155-160 characters, although they may generate their description if they deem it more relevant.
Webmasters strive to create unique, relevant, and compelling meta-descriptions that accurately summarise the content of their web pages and entice users to visit their sites. Currently, meta descriptions continue to be an essential element of on-page SEO. While search engines do not rely solely on meta-description tags for ranking purposes, a well-crafted meta-description can still positively impact click-through rates and user engagement.
How to write meta descriptions?
When writing your meta title and description, keeping search engines and users in mind is vital. The meta description length (tag character limit) is 150-160 characters. This is enough space to include a primary keyword describing the page content while keeping the description concise.
It is crucial to ensure that descriptions are unique for each page. The good practice is to avoid duplicate meta descriptions. It is an essential rule for product pages and product categories in e-commerce.
Proper keyword intent (search intent in the search query) can help meta descriptions in several ways. First, using keywords and phrases relevant to the page’s topic will ensure that Google algorithms understand the content and can accurately represent it in SERPs. This is important for improving the visibility of your content on search engine results pages (SERPs).
Including modifiers to critical terms within your meta description, such as adjectives or adverbs, can also help improve the relevance and accuracy of organic search. This can also help capture a broader range of inquiries related to the topic, leading to higher click-through rates from viewers looking for specific information.
By including keywords with an appropriate level of semantic richness, you can increase the chances that your meta description will be helpful to viewers and encourage them to click through to your page.
Semantic richness involves using fewer words but conveying more meaning. By using more precise terms related to the content on your page, you can better explain what users can expect if they visit your site instead of another result on SERPs.
Do keywords matter in descriptions?
Including the primary keyword in your meta description and title can help improve your page’s ranking in search results. However, it’s essential to use keywords sparingly and ensure that they are relevant to the content of your page. Stuffing keywords into your meta tags will result in lower rankings and can penalise you by a search engine.
Does Google rewrite meta descriptions?
According to an Ahrefs study, Google has rewritten nearly 40% of searches. According to a survey by Portent, a mobile search engine can rewrite descriptions 70-75% of the time.
Google stated that the accuracy of the search results given to the user is their priority. Google will rewrite your meta description to give users a more accurate description than supplied by you, and it would be possible purely from the on-page content.
Auditing and optimising meta descriptions.
Why audit and improve descriptions if Google rewrites them?
Google’s algorithms are ever-changing, and the search engine modifies meta descriptions to include keywords and phrases most relevant to a user’s query. Despite Google’s ability to rewrite descriptions, creating a unique and suitable meta description for every page on your website is crucial.
As you know, meta description text is a part of the result presentation on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), and having an outstanding and unique description tag can help in CTR.
The good idea is to focus on pages that already have keywords ranking in Google but doesn’t have a reasonable click-through rate (CTR). Optimisation of these pages can result in improvement in CTR and will deliver more traffic to your website.
What tools are useful for an audit?
There are a great number of tools offering meta’s auditing. The best and fastest idea is to use one of the desktop/cloud SEO spiders. The most popular are:
- Screaming Frog
How to perform a descriptions audit?
How to add meta descriptions in WordPress?
The Yoast SEO plugin can add meta titles and descriptions to WordPress pages and posts. Once the plugin is installed and activated, you will see meta fields for titles and reports under the “SEO” tab in the WordPress editor.
Including keywords in your meta description and title can help improve your page’s ranking in search results. However, it’s important to remember to avoid keyword stuffing.
Both the meta title and descriptions should be unique to each page. This helps search engines understand that each page on your website is distinct and relevant to different queries.
Including keywords in your meta description and title can help improve your page’s ranking in search results. However, it’s essential to use keywords sparingly and ensure that they are relevant to the content of your page. Stuffing keywords into your meta tags will result in lower rankings and can penalise you by search engines.
Remember that these elements must be informative and keyword-rich when creating your meta title and description. In other words, they should give users an accurate snapshot of what your page is about while also incorporating the keywords that you want to rank for
When adding meta tags to a WordPress site, you can do so by editing the code of your theme or using a plugin. If you’re uncomfortable editing code, plenty of plugins will allow you to add meta tags without touching a single line of code.
If you’re using WordPress, a few plugins can help you with your meta title and description. Yoast SEO is a popular option, and it’s free. Once you’ve installed the plugin, go to the Yoast SEO settings page and enter your meta title and description into the fields provided.
According to Google, the meta description tag is not a ranking factor. Therefore, it does not directly affect the visibility of your website in the SERPs. However, it can have an indirect effect.
If you create a catchy description, you will attract more interested users to your website. In this way, you will improve traffic to the site, and more traffic can make the algorithms appreciate your site and improve its position. It is worth taking care of the content of the page title and its description.
Title and description are essential elements of your website metadata. They can be visible in search results, affecting SEO effects and user interest.
Remember to create them with Google algorithms in mind and write them primarily for a real user, your potential client. Remember to use CTA, use active language and match the content of meta tags to the user’s needs and expectations.