A meta description is an HTML and XHTML element that describes your page to search engines.
When a search engine crawls and indexes the pages of your website, the meta description of a page communicates with the search engine on what a particular page is all about. The meta description conveys the aim and content synopsis of a page to search engines.
That said, a meta description is not the only element which communicates the data about “What type of content”. There are other elements such as Anchor text, URL, Title that conveys the same (to small and large extent)
In this article, I will outline some best practices for writing good meta description for your blog posts and website pages. I will also illustrate the usage of a good and a bad meta description through proper examples at the end of the post.
Write Short and Concise Meta descriptions
Your meta description should be short and concise. Don’t make it too big. Don’t overpopulate it with keywords, phrases and long tail search keywords, that is not the right thing to do.
Ideally, you would want to write a description which conveys what the content of a page is all about. It’s equivalent to writing a mission statement for a page and should not be longer than one or two sentences. Following is a good example of a one line meta description which is short, simple and to the point.
Let’s take another example.
Example – This page is all about writing a good meta description. So I would use the following sentences as the meta description of this page
Meta description – Best practices for writing good meta descriptions which conveys what the page is all about. The do’s and don’ts of writing an effective meta description.
Note that I did not elaborate each point and neither I stuffed keywords or broad phrases into it. I kept it simple and conveyed what the page is all about – that’s all.
Make it relevant to the content of the page
Again, think whether the meta description is relevant to the content of the page or whether you are making it up?
Reading the meta description, the reader should be able to have an idea on what they are going to read. However, if the meta description is not relevant to the content of your page, readers might feel disappointed. You make one promise through a meta description but when readers read the content they find that the page talks about something else.
Do not disappoint readers and don’t make false promises. This will cause bad user experience and bad UX is a strong factor that search engines take into considering for ranking and visibility.
Example – Let’s say you have a page on your website about “Advantages of iPhone over Android”.
Good meta description – Here are some of the advantages of purchasing an iPhone over Android. Find out how iPhone and Android differ in terms of features, price and usage.
Bad meta description – Which mobile you should buy – Android or Apple iPhone? Apple is releasing iPhone X next week, find all the information here.
Match it with the Title of your post
A meta description is a follow up of the title of your blog post or website’s page.
Readers will first see the title of a page and then read the meta description. Often times, readers don’t even read the meta description element and skip it anyway. However, some readers do and so do search engines.
Ideally, your Post Title and Meta description should convey the same message but only in a different way. The title and meta description should compliment each other and there should be match in content theme.
Think about the words users may type to find your content
When there is an exact match between the search phrase and the keywords that exist in the search phrase, the keywords will be bolded out and this will improve the click through rate of your page. Given below is an example where the meta description includes an exact match phrase.
Before writing the meta description and the title of your post, think about the words users may type in search engines. Think about the keywords and phrases users are most likely to use. Use these words and phrases in your meta description in a natural way so that when readers see your meta description, there is a match and the phrases or keywords are bolded out.
Don’t Write Duplicate Meta descriptions
Using duplicate meta description tags is a strict No No and will severely harm the search engine ranking for your website’s pages. Never copy meta descriptions from another page and post it and do check your Google webmaster tools account for duplicate meta descriptions. If you find duplicate meta descriptions, please change the duplicates and make it unique.
There is another drawback of writing duplicate meta descriptions. When users see multiple pages of your blog with the same meta description on search result pages, it might trigger a negative impression about your site.
Provide a Solution or Make the reader curious
If possible, provide the answer in the meta description itself so that users have some clue on the problem before they even click through to come to your website.
Providing the solution in the meta description signifies that the answer to the user’s problem is there in the content of the page and is a strong indicator of trust. The click through ratios will be definitely higher since the user will be compelled to check the solution at least once.
Some bloggers prefer to invoke curiosity in the reader’s mind by asking questions or hinting towards something which the user might want to check out. This is also a good way to encourage the reader to click through and check out your website for the answer or resource he might be desperately looking for.
These are some of the best practices for writing effective meta descriptions. Do you have any tips or best practices for meta descriptions? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.