Meta Descriptions and SEO: Everything You Need to Know in Under 3 Minutes (2020)

Reading Time: 3 minutes

What is a Meta Description?

Meta descriptions are text snippets located in an HTML tag on a web page’s code that is intended to summarize a page’s content and encourage people to click on your website from search engines. Search engines like Google and Bing sometimes (but not always) use the written meta description underneath the page title and URL of your website when it appears in the SERPS (Search Engine Results Page).

Late in 2017, Google increased the character limit of meta descriptions before they would be truncated on the SERPs from approximately 160 to 320, but they have since reversed that.

In this quick but comprehensive guide, I’ll layout everything you need to know about meta descriptions. This includes their importance for SEO, how to write compelling meta descriptions, and much more.

Why Meta Descriptions are Important

Many people wonder how important meta descriptions really are, since Google has stated that the content in meta descriptions are not a ranking factor for SEO. If someone tells you meta descriptions impact keyword rankings, it’s probably time to find a new SEO advisor.

With that being said, you shouldn’t ignore your meta descriptions.

Meta descriptions are important because they can impact your websites clickthrough-rates (CTR). Clickthrough-rate is the ratio of clicks to impressions your webpage has for a particular keyword. So if your webpage has 100 impressions and receives 10 clicks, your CTR is 10%.

Why is CTR important? It’s important because the more clicks you get, the more traffic you’ll get to your website. It’s also important because some studies have shown (and in my experience, this bears out) that if you can achieve a higher CTR than your competitors in SERPs, you might start outranking them. After all, Google wants to provide users with the best results. If they find more people are clicking on the third result than the first or second, it only makes sense to bump up the 3rd page’s rankings.

How to Write Great Meta Descriptions (with examples)

Writing great meta descriptions isn’t rocket science; explain what your page is about in an interesting way, work in your page’s primary keyword into the text naturally & include a relevant call-to-action (CTA). Below are a couple of examples of great meta descriptions:

example of a good meta description from onehopewine

This is a great meta description because it includes the page’s primary keyword and thus gets bolded in searches for ‘red wine’, it explains why people should buy from ONEHOPE (each purchase supports a great social cause), and includes a CTA (‘Find your wine today!’).

example of a good meta description from wpromote

This is also a good meta description for the same reasons (includes the primary keyword, includes a relevant CTA, and acknowledges the fact that most voice search SEO strategies are being repeated by everyone writing about them).

See the list below for some more advanced tips on writing compelling meta descriptions:

  • Include your page’s primary keyword
  • Use a relevant call-to-action (CTA)
  • Include the year if writing about something topical
  • Use numbers where applicable (such as interesting statistics, price, etc.)
  • Don’t always use sentences as meta descriptions; you can include things like price, SKU number, age, etc.
  • Always write a unique meta description for each page
  • Don’t make visiting your page obsolete by including TOO much information in the meta description
  • Hook readers in with emotional or curiosity-inspiring words and phrases (i.e. “Most people don’t know why meta descriptions are still important for SEO…but in this guide you’ll learn how to supercharge your SEO campaign and overtake your competitors with minimal effort).
  • If you’re going to write meta descriptions longer than 160 characters, make sure to include the primary keyword and call-to-action before that 160 character mark. That way, even if Google does truncate your meta description, searchers will still see the most important elements.

How Long can Meta Descriptions be in 2019?

The short answer is roughly 150-160 characters. Meta descriptions used to have a character limit of about 160, but in December of 2017 this was expanded to 320 characters. A few weeks later though, the limit was reduced back down to approximately to 150-160.

However, Google still sometimes will show longer meta descriptions, and often uses on-page copy as the meta description instead of the supplied meta descriptions.

Example of a long meta description

How to Implement Meta Descriptions on Your Website

Depending on your website’s CMS (content management system), you can implement meta descriptions in a few different ways.

  • WordPress: Install the plugin Yoast SEO and on each page you create, scroll down to the Yoast SEO block, click on ‘Edit snippet’, and write your meta description in the box.

  • Magento:  Go to the page, product, or product category. Click on the meta description box, and write your meta description in the box.

  • FTP (File Transfer Protocol): Open up the page’s code in your file editor, and manually insert the meta description tag to the <head> section of the page.

<meta name=”description” content=”your meta description goes here”>

Conclusion

And that’s it! If you have any questions or tips you think should be included, let me know in the comments below.

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