How To Write Meta Descriptions For SEO

Brandon LazovicFebruary 21, 2021

For on-page optimization, there are several different factors that you need to consider, with meta descriptions being one of the top ones. 

Read our latest guide to learn how to write meta descriptions for SEO. We’ll cover: 

  • What meta descriptions are and why they’re important
  • Where to add them on your website
  • Top things to keep in mind when writing meta descriptions
  • Six best practices that you should follow
  • Examples of good meta descriptions

What Is A Meta Description? 

A meta description is a short snippet, or an HTML meta tag, that summarizes the content of your webpage. Meta descriptions are placed beneath the page title/URL in the search engine result pages (SERPs). It will also appear as a description for pieces of content that are shared on your social media channels, like Facebook or Twitter. 

Where To Add A Meta Description On Your Website

Meta descriptions should be placed in the header code of your web pages as a HTML snippet. This can either be done manually, or through certain plugins or content management systems, depending on what your site currently operates on. 

What A Meta Description Does

The key point of the meta description of a webpage is to drive visitors from SERPs and social media and entice them to click on your link. In a way, it’s giving a preview of the content of the page. This is vital for verticals such as optimizing SEO for recruitment marketing.

Why Meta Descriptions Are Important For SEO

Like I mentioned before, the meta description helps influence the click-through rate (CTR) of your website in the SERPs. 

Users will click on content that appeals to them and respond to their question, so make sure to keep your target audience in mind as you write the meta description. 

Looking to learn more about search engine optimization? Read our SEO beginner’s guide for everything you need to know about SEO and how to drive business results through search engines like Google and Bing. 

How To Write SEO Meta Descriptions

Below we’ll walk through a two considerations to keep in mind as you begin writing your meta descriptions for SEO: 

Best Meta Description Length

Google bases meta description lengths dependent on pixels, so be mindful of this specification for the presence on the SERPs of your meta descriptions. The screen limit is 920 pixels on desktop, so a good rule of thumb is to aim for about 160 characters. For smartphones this limit is shortened to 680 pixels, or about 120 characters.

Keep in mind that the character limit is a soft rule - each letter will take up different amounts of space, so when in doubt, defer to the pixel limit. 

If your meta descriptions are above the defined pixel limit, it will be truncated by ellipses (...), so you’ll want to keep your meta description within the pixel limit or run the risk of it being cut off. 

Best Meta Description Format

When writing a meta description, you want to avoid being overly spammy. It should be unique and entice users to click through to your web page without being clickbaity or overselling. 

Meta Description Best Practices

Here are six other best practices to follow when writing your meta description: 

Leverage Strong Ad Copy

The meta description acts like advertisement copy, attracting readers to your website and influencing CTR. 

Try writing your meta description as you would ad copy. You can also leverage existing ad copy from competitors and mimic their verbiage / tone of voice.

The benefit of doing this, is you know that the copy from paid search placements are vetted (because companies are spending a lot of money for the placement) and because Google uses a quality score to determine which ads get the best placements, depending on the ad copy / budget for that keyword. 

Include A Strong Call To Action

This ties in with leveraging strong ad copy, but be sure to include a strong call to action to entice users to click-through to your result. 

Include Your Primary Keyword

As part of on-page SEO for your web pages, you should identify a primary keyword that your page is targeting / trying to rank for. Use the primary keyword in your meta description to help improve your chances of ranking well in the search results. 

Make Sure It Matches The Intent Of Your Page

Similar to researching a primary keyword to target, make sure that the meta description captures the intent / purpose of your web page. 

It’s a bad signal to Google if users click through to your web page expecting one experience, but having the page not match their intent, causing them to quickly leave your website. 

Avoid Duplicate Meta Descriptions On Site Pages

One key SEO best practice is to avoid duplicate content on your site pages. Having duplicate content can cause keyword cannibalization, or confuse search engines. When a search engine is faced with trying to rank several similar pages for a keyword, it can reduce your overall rankings, or may even choose to not show any of your pages for that query. 

Avoid Quotation Marks

When quotation marks are used in a meta description, Google will cut off the description at the quotation mark because of the HTML rules it has in place. Make sure to remove any special characters or symbols from your meta descriptions to avoid truncation. 

Why Isn’t Google Using My Meta Description?

Search engines can, in some cases, override the meta description defined by a webmaster in the HTML of a website. It is unpredictable exactly when this happens, but it always occurs when Google does not think that the current meta definition sufficiently addresses the query of a user and finds a fragment from the target page that better suits the query of a searcher.

Ultimate Guide To Writing Meta Descriptions For SEO
Ultimate Guide To Writing Meta Descriptions For SEO

In this video i'll walk you through what meta descriptions are and how to optimize them for search engine optimization. Meta descriptions are descriptions that you provide for a web page that appear in the search results for search engines like google and bing. A general rule of thumb is to keep your meta description lower than 160 characters or about 900 pixels on desktop and on mobile this equates to about 600-ish pixels or so it's not a big deal if some of your med description gets truncated but if you do go above that 900 or 600 pixel limit then the mega description will get cut off as shown here with the ellipses.

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