8 Tips for Writing Perfect Meta Description for SEO
TL;DR: A meta description is a short summary of your webpage that appears in SERPs. Follow our 8 tips for the perfect SEO meta descriptions.
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- Christian Lindquist
8 Tips for Writing Perfect Meta Description for SEO
A meta description is a short summary of your webpage that appears in search engine results pages (SERPs). It's a pitch of a specific page to potential visitors so they get an idea of what they can expect to find if they click on your link.
Meta descriptions do not directly affect search engine rankings, but play a crucial role in attracting clicks and driving traffic to your site.
In Google terms, a meta description is a snippet, and calls it a summary part of your page in search results on Google Search, Google News, etc. Google use several sources to create the snippet:
- HTML meta description tag
- Structured data marked up on your page
- Page content itself
If you want to take ownership of meta descriptions then the best way to “control” the content of a snippet is to use the <meta> tag for descriptions, which is added to your HTML like this:
<meta name="description" content="Short page summary,"/>
However, Google (and other search engines) has a nasty habit of rewriting snippets if they deem your suggested description to have low quality. On their own guide on how to write meta descriptions, those regarded generally as bad and often skipped are descriptions just listing a bunch keywords, duplicate descriptions, do not summarize the page or are too short.
That being said, Google themselves frequently blunder snippets when they have no clue what the page is all about, and ends up just showing some random text. A common example is a snippet showing text from site navigation:
What am I supposed to do with that?
Our advice: take control and add your own meta descriptions through tags. A good meta description can have a significant effect on click-through rates (CTR). Search engines also read it to understand your content better and most often use your input in SERPs when the quality is good.
8 Tips for Perfect SEO Meta Descriptions
We've curated a nice little list for those who wants to excel in the meta description writing business.
1. Keep it short and sweet
Meta descriptions on desktops should be roughly 158 characters or 920 pixels, and 120 characters on mobile that translates into 680 pixels. Keep in short, be concise and to-the-point, use actionable language and clearly convey the value of the page.
Worth mentioning is that there's actually no limit to how much text you can stuff into the description tag, but you'll get the horrendous “...” truncation when exceeding the pixel limit.
Be aware that certain characters also have different pixel widths, so the character limit may sometimes be more or less than 158 and 120.
2. Include relevant keywords
Add target keywords your page tries to rank for in the meta description, but weave it into a natural sounding text that doesn't appear spammy. It's a great SEO on-page optimization opportunity, and helps engines associate search terms with your page and increase the chances of it appearing in relevant search results.
It's also a neat trick as search engines often show meta description in search results when the searched phrase is added to the snippet, which is the case here for the search term "motetilbud":
Warning: don't overdo it. Keyword stuffing is considered spammy and can harm your credibility. Using a keyword 9 times or more might even get you penalized, so chill.
3. Think about the user
Do ask yourself “what is the page really about”, and “why is your page the best choice for the searched phrase?” Put yourself in the user's shoes and write it for them, not the machine. Keep it conversational, interesting and engaging.
And please make it accurate. If a user lands on a page that does not match their expectations from the SERP, they are likely to bounce back to the search results and look for another page.
4. Get to the point
Everyone has little time. Put the most important information (keywords included) as early as possible in the meta description. Importance of a text goes from left to right, so make sure you get to the point early.
Think about the subject matter, be that a product, brand or topic, and use search terms specific for the type. A product page should perhaps impress with price, shipping or other related keywords to the product itself.
5. Have a call to action (CTA)
Add a call-to-action is relevant when you want users to complete a specific goal on your page. CTAs such as “create a free account” or “sign up for a free trial today” gives the end-user a reason to click and do something after they arrive on your page.
There's well documented examples of websites who have added CTAs to their meta descriptions that have increased CTR, but again it should not be generic. Use a trigger for increasing the chance of a click by adding “free”, “trial” or similar.
6. Use unique meta descriptions
Make sure your descriptions are not duplicated and write unique snippets for each of your pages. It's considered low quality and spammy.
We know it can be hard when you have a large website with thousands of pages, so it's understandable to have a placeholder/default description until you write your own. This is definitely the case for e-commerce web shops where products come and go. In this case we recommend to at least have an overview of all pages with clicks and impressions above a certain level, and make sure they have a tailor made meta description. If possible try to have specific placeholders for different page templates such as products, categories or recipes.
7. Test and optimize
Big issue with recommending how to write meta descriptions is that what works for some doesn't necessarily work for others. To be top of your game you should experiment with different meta descriptions and observe which ones perform the best.
A clever method is to utilize A/B split testing so you'll have a data driven approach for what works or not. This way you'll test SEO hypotheses and debunk low performers without wasting too much time.
Be crazy. Experiment with emojis, “time to read”, prices or aggressive CTAs to find your SEO sweet spot. Luckily, this is something that is easily done with the metamanager A/B testing tool.
8. Keep it up to date
If you update your content it will be beneficial to review and update your meta descriptions regularly to ensure that they accurately reflect the content of your pages and continue to attract clicks.
Meta tags in general are usually edited once - the time it was created, and never looked back on. This is a classic SEO mistake, while your most important pages could do with some proper maintenance.
A/B Split Testing Meta Descriptions
An e-commerce user of our platform made an A/B split test on the following hypothesis: “Will adding up to 70% in meta descriptions have any effect on click-through rates?”. The campaign messaging was already in the page title, so this was solely for the meta description.
We selected 200 product pages and split them into two groups of 100 pages each. Group A added “up to 70%” or similar variants to the snippet, while Group B had the same description as before. After 4 weeks of testing, with 16 months training data (old data feeded into the test framework), the results were interesting:
This is but a small test, but the indications were surprisingly refreshing. This set them onto a path of further testing and experimentation with page titles and schema markup for products as well.
A meta description, also called snippet, is a short summary of a page that works as a pitch for your content. Descriptions of good quality can improve CTR and user experience.
8 tips for writing perfect meta descriptions are:
- Stick to the pixel limit
- Include target keywords
- Write with user in mind
- Be accurate and specific
- Include a CTA
- Only unique descriptions
- Test and optimize
- Update when necessary
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