Meta Description: What is a Good Length & How To Build an Example & Character Count for SEO (HTML, Tag)

on SEO November 04th, 2020

If you’ve ever searched for something on Google and found the right site by reading the snippets on the results page, you know how valuable a good meta description can be. Meta descriptions are an extremely important element because they allow users to learn more about your website without having to access your webpages. This reduces the number of irrelevant visitors while improving engagement metrics at the same time, both of which are essential for good SEO.

While meta descriptions may seem simple, having the right structure and including specific content can significantly boost the amount of organic traffic to your site. Therefore, you need to understand how Google and other search engines use your meta description in order to reap all the benefits that these description tags can bring.

At Fannit, our team has spent the best part of the last decade developing comprehensive SEO campaigns, covering all elements from strategy creation to meta description writing. We understand the relationship between Google, meta descriptions, and organic traffic, so we know what you need to do to get the best results from this content.

Below, we’ll explain the different meta tags, go over the definition of a meta description, and go over the steps to write superb copy for this part of your page.

Meta Tags Explained

What are meta descriptions?

Before going over the answer to this question, it’s important to understand the different types of tags and the functions they serve.

A meta tag is a simple line of code that is used to describe the content on a page within a site. Keep in mind that meta tags are not part of the actual content, but they are present in the backend of each page and help provide a description of certain elements. For example, your page title tags contain the name of the title of each page, so Google and other search engines can access this information by simply reading the meta information.

Keep in mind that there are dozens of other types of meta tags that are not visible. That said, the meta title tag and meta description tag are visible in search engine result pages (SERPs), so they have a direct impact on the organic traffic that goes through your site.

What is a Meta Description?

What is a meta description? In a nutshell, this piece of code describes the topic of a page as well as its overall contents. A meta description should provide a brief summary that helps readers understand what a page is about and what to expect without actually going into that site.

Because meta descriptions are visible to users, they directly affect your click-through rate (CTR) on the organic search engine results page that gets created after each search query. Not only this, but the right structure and supporting elements can improve visibility and give potential customers a clear idea of what your site is about.

meta descriptionMeta Descriptions in Code

Like other pieces of code, a meta tag description needs to follow the right format to have a positive effect. For starters, your meta description should be posted within the header tag, and follow a structure similar to:

<head>  <meta name=”description” content=”Here is the example of a meta description. The more creative and relevant, the better its results!”></head>

If you’re using WordPress or a similar CMS to manage content on your site, you simply have to find the meta description box in the interface and fill out this data before you publish every new page. If you’re not sure which pages have a meta description tag already, you should conduct an audit and identify the parts of your site that need to be updated.

Optimal Length of Meta Description Characters

There is no limit on the number of characters you can have in your meta description. However, search engines like Google will cut or truncate your description after 155 to 160 characters, so it’s in your best interest to keep your meta tags below this number. In other words, you should always ensure that your meta description characters count is less than 160 characters to make sure that all of it shows up on search engine results pages.

Remember that the main goal of any meta description is to draw more clicks and entice your audience, regardless of the number of characters it has. In some cases, this means not using all the space you have available or writing longer descriptions, so keep an open mind and remember to always check your content marketing plan to make the best decisions.

Meta Description Formatting Tips

In addition to the meta description character limit, you should also follow formatting best practices to reap the best results. Remember, users that are browsing the search results will read your meta description assuming it will give them a preview of what they can expect. Therefore, you should use the space to promote your content and give consumers a taste of what’s to come.

As a general rule of thumb, you want to use the main keyword in the meta description tag, address the searcher’s intent, and offer compelling information that convinces users to click on your link. Make sure that the content is unique and that it was designed specifically for that page.

Are Meta Descriptions an SEO Ranking Factor?

Back in 2009, Google gave a bit of background information on meta tags and informed marketers that it didn’t directly take these into consideration when ranking websites. But, meta tags do affect the way users interact with your organic search results and it influences the people who end up visiting your site.

Both of these elements can affect user experience, time spent on page, bounce rate, and other factors that directly impact SEO. Therefore, it’s safe to say that meta descriptions do have a certain effect on areas that ultimately impact your Google positions and other search engine rankings.

SEO Meta Description Best Practices

Whether you’re implementing an HTML meta description or using a CMS like WordPress, you should follow a set of best practices that improve your chances of success.

The main goal of all meta descriptions is to increase engagement and drive more clicks. So, you should put yourself in your audience’s shoes to identify the pieces of information that hold the most value to these users. This will help you avoid technical content and give you an idea of how consumers see your content.

To develop engaging meta descriptions that encourage users to visit your site, you should:

Write Interesting and Unique Content

Even competing sites that target the same area have unique content on every page. So, your meta description tag should always contain original content designed for that specific page.

As a matter of fact, you should treat your meta descriptions as free adverts that help you promote your products and services around the web. Search engines like Google can drive hundreds if not thousands of users to your pages. If users see the same meta description on two or more results, it will discourage them from clicking on any of these sites.

Instead, you should create descriptions that captivate users and portray your company’s personality. Take the time to analyze the contents of the pages in your site and develop specific page titles as well as meta description tags for each one.

Abstain From Using Double Quotation Marks

When you’re learning how to write meta descriptions, you need to avoid using double quotation marks at all costs. The reason for this is that Google automatically truncates a meta description whenever its HTML code contains double quotation marks. We suggest you avoid using this symbol altogether. In case you feel that the quotation marks are essential to your meta description, you use them as long as they come as an adequate HTML entity.

Ensure that the Homepage and Other Main Pages Have Meta Descriptions

The most important pages in your site should have a meta description and your homepage is no exception. Your homepage meta description actually plays a crucial role because it provides a summary of the contents of your entire site.

If you have a large number of pages that need meta tags, you should start off by developing descriptions for the main parts of your site. This will help ensure that Google and other search engines properly categorize your main pages while allowing users to see a summary of these on SERPs.

Note that Google will determine whether or not to use your meta description in the SERPs.

To craft an SEO meta description that has a higher chance of being used by Google, you should include the main keyword and ensure that your content is relevant to the search query as well as your page contents.

meta descriptionExamining the Features of a Good Meta Description

Sometimes referred to as an SEO description, the meta description on each page will help users decide if they want to view your content. All companies, websites, and industries are different, but good meta descriptions have a set of common characteristics that help them succeed.

In our experience, the five most important features in a meta description are:

The Use of an Active Voice

Using a passive voice, which means that the subject of the verb is being acted upon, doesn’t always engage users. By using an active voice, you can help ensure that your content is enticing, easy to understand, and straight to the point.

Unfortunately, many marketers fall into the habit of stuffing each meta description with keywords. Although including a powerful search term is essential, you should always write for your audience and produce content that uses an active voice to ensure the perfect balance.

Having a Call-to-Action

Having a call-to-action (CTA) in each meta description can help encourage users to take the right steps after reading your content. For example, your meta descriptions can consist of a summary of each one of your pages and a gentle message at the end that encourages them to read on and find out more about the topic at hand.

Depending on the page SEO elements you have in place, you can also promote different actions. For example, if you’ve included schema markup that results in rich snippets, you can promote users to contact you, make a purchase, or complete other actions directly from the Google results page.

Keyword-Rich Descriptions

As we mentioned before, overloading a meta description with keywords can actually have a detrimental effect because it can take away from the amount of space you have available. Instead, you should include the main keyword naturally in your page description and ensure that the URL and title also contain these terms. This, plus a balanced implementation of keywords throughout the text, should be more than enough for Google to deem your meta descriptions as relevant.

Technical Elements or Other Detailed Information

Companies and websites that specialize in tech devices and similar products should also include detailed information about these goods in the meta description. This can include the exact product or model name, price, manufacturer, and other elements that may entice users to click on your Google results page.

Additionally, you should implement rich snippets that can help send users to other parts of your site depending on what they need.

Relevance

Besides including the keyword, the context of your meta descriptions should be relevant to the contents of each page. For example, if your site aims to sell a product, the meta description should not make it seem like if it’s an informational page.

On the contrary, your meta description tags need to be as close to your site contents as possible, literally delivering a small summary of what’s to come right on Google search results.

How to Write a Solid Meta Description

Now that we’ve discussed the definition and best practices, it’s time to go over the steps on how to write a meta description that engages users.

As with any other type of digital marketing writing, remember to follow basic grammar rules, and avoid using a tone that’s too casual. Many industries allow for a friendlier approach, but you should always tread carefully and ensure that the language you use is acceptable when addressing your potential customers.

Additionally, to write a great meta description you should also:

Keep the Searcher’s Intent in Mind

The searcher’s intent can be described as the basic reason why a user is conducting a query. For instance, a person is looking for “meta description HTML code”, they probably want to see examples of the structure that their line of code needs to follow, like this:

<meta name=”description” content=”Example meta description that’s 155 to 160 characters in length goes here!”>

Remember, your meta description won’t affect your SEO ranking directly, but having a misleading meta description will almost always produce a high bounce rate. Which, in turn, has a negative impact on your Google positions and your site’s overall performance.

Respect Google’s Length Requirements

Although you don’t technically have to abide by it, following Google’s meta description length requirements can help improve your click-through rate and site SEO performance. As long as your description is 155 to 160 characters in length, you should have enough space to get your point across while ensuring that your content will not be cut by Google.

Besides respecting the length requirements, keep need to make sure that your description doesn’t contain any double quotations or other symbols that can affect the way your snippet looks.

Deliver Information That’s Valuable to Your Customers

Whether they include opening hours, product prices, locations, descriptions about your solutions, or a similar type of content, your meta descriptions should deliver value to your potential customers. This will help ensure that the search results are more accurate and that you write meta descriptions unique to each page.

meta description

Understanding Google’s Use of Meta Descriptions

Since the early days of the internet, the purpose of a meta description has been to provide information about a page and what it contains. Search engines like Google employ title tags and other metadata to identify whether the page is a blog post, what it’s about, and to produce more accurate results in general.

Better Site Crawling

Crawlers, which are simple programs that Google and other search engines use to read your site, are in charge of analyzing your site meta description tags to understand what each page is about. A detailed meta description will result in better site crawling, which means that Google will have a better understanding of your site.

Enhanced Relevance Indicators

Meta description tags serve as relevance indicators, which basically help search engines determine if each page is related to the query being performed. Duplicate meta descriptions and other forms of low-quality metadata can have a negative impact on your relevance indicators. By writing unique meta description tags, you can ensure that your content is properly categorized in Google’s database.

Improved User Experience

Finally and most importantly, good meta description tags create a great user experience in both search engines as well as on your site. An informative meta description allows search engine users to decide whether a page contains the information they want. If the description is not accurate or clear, users may end up clicking on a search result and leaving the site right away.

If you follow meta description best practices, your visitors will always know what to expect and decide if they want to check out your site after reading a short snippet of 160 characters.

Where Do You Add Meta Descriptions?

There are many different types of websites, but most SEO-friendly platforms run on HTML code or on a CMS like WordPress. If you are using WordPress or a similar solution, you simply have to write meta descriptions in the correct areas and the content management system will take care of the rest.

Web managers that have websites that run on HTML code will have to manually add the meta description to the header section rather than in the page content.

When there isn’t a meta description code, Google and other search engines show a text snippet from a section close to the top of the page, but these aren’t always relevant. Make sure that you add a custom text snippet in the right area or manually to get the best results.

3 Tips for Easy Meta Description Implementation

If you’re writing a Google meta description for each page, you need to stay creative and find ways to get your message across in a relatively small amount of space. Additionally, you should also implement additional elements, like OpenGraph and schema markup, that help maintain your content format when it’s share on social media.

In order to improve the way you write and implement meta descriptions, you should:

Focus on Value

Just because you provide information about your company or product doesn’t mean you’re delivering value. When they read your meta description, users want to know what your page is about, what they can expect to find, and how this will help them handle the issues they’re attempting to solve.

Think About Your Call-to-Action

The CTA you choose may seem almost trivial, but this element can completely transform the way your 160 character text snippet performs. With the right call to action, the click-through rate of your Google search results can skyrocket and significantly improve traffic to your blog posts.

To write an effective call to action, include phrases like “click here now”, “read our blog today”, and “find out more about our solutions” but adjust them to the actions you want your potential customers to take.

Test Different Meta Description Structures and Versions

Description meta information can be worded in a variety of ways and there is no way to find out which structure or version is better without appropriate testing. You should always create various versions of your description meta content, split your traffic between the different options, and determine which one provides the best results.

Like some elements of your page SEO, you should start by testing a completely different version of your meta description. Once you have identified the best base, you can start testing slightly more subtle variables, like the CTA, keywords, description order, and other parts of the text content. This will help you identify the combination that provides the best results in terms of SEO rankings, social media, and user behavior.

Five Reasons You Should Implement Meta Descriptions

Choosing your meta description can be the difference between simply getting a good local SEO ranking and generating huge amounts of traffic through Google. The right meta description can exponentially increase the number of visitors, enhance the visibility of your content, and boost the rest of your digital marketing plan.

When writing a meta description, SEO and user experience aren’t the only areas that may experience improvements. Some of the reasons you should implement meta descriptions into your content marketing plan include:

Search Result Visibility

The most obvious advantage of writing a text snippet for each page is that it can help improve your visibility on Google and other search engines. If you conduct thorough keyword research, you’ll uncover the terms that Google users employ when looking for your services or products. When the meta description keywords match the search terms being used, these appear as bolded in the Google SERPs, which draws more attention to your page.

Social Network Sharing

Having a good social presence and sharing your content on these networks are great SEO tips. But, you should also implement description tags that allow you to share content on social media in a readable format. OpenGraph and schema markups are great alternatives because they are used by more than one network, just make sure you have the resources to include these into your content marketing plan.

Review Sites and Local Directories

Review sites and local directories often create company profiles without notifying owners. In many cases, these platforms use meta information found online to create these profiles and use description examples as the about section content. These have a huge impact on local SEO rankings and overall page SEO performance, so your text snippet selection can still impact your position on search engines.

Appearance in Rich Snippets

Another benefit of meta descriptions and schema markup language is that these allow you to add a series of functional text snippets as well as video and other rich media elements that draw more attention to your brand.

Higher Click-Through Rate

Lastly, an engaging meta name description can improve your organic CTR and feed other parts of your content marketing plan. By implementing contact forms and other SEO-friendly elements, you can collect information from users, develop email sequences, and get jumpstart your marketing machine by simply implementing a better text snippet on each page.

Meta Description Examples

Below, we’ve put together some text snippets as well as meta description examples that leave a lot to be desired.

Awesome meta descriptions:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snippets that need a bit more work:

Looking to Write Better Meta Descriptions? We’ve Got You Covered

Ready to start writing better meta descriptions? At Fannit, our team of online marketing specialists relies on years of hands-on experience to develop the meat meta description content for our clients. To learn more, contact us today and we’ll be glad to help!

 

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