Meta descriptions have always been a very important part of SEO. Even though they don’t help with rankings, they do help with other goals, like getting more people to click on your listing instead of ones that aren’t as interesting.
Meta descriptions are considered an indirect signal because they don’t have a direct effect on where a website ranks in search results. But does that mean you shouldn’t pay attention to them as part of your SEO? Not even close!
Here, you’ll learn how to write great meta descriptions that help search engines understand what your page is about and encourage searchers to click through to your website.
What Is A Meta Description?
The meta description is an HTML tag that tells search engines and people who are looking for information about a page what it is about. It shows up on search engine results pages (SERPs) below the page title.
Meta Descriptions Vs. SERP Snippets
Some people use “meta description” and “search snippet” interchangeably, which is a mistake. But search snippets and meta descriptions are not the same thing. You can change the HTML tag that makes up the meta description.
You can write your own meta descriptions and make sure they work well. Google’s descriptions of your pages are what are called “search snippets.” It could be the meta description you wrote, or it could be something else. Google is in charge of this.
Google should use your meta description, so why wouldn’t it? Depending on the search query, Google may come up with a description for your page that is nothing like the one you wrote.
This is not a new thing. Google has been using computers to do this for many years.
Yoast recently did an in-depth study that showed:
- Many search snippets are rewritten by Google on its own to better match the searcher’s query.
- Google used sentences from the first paragraph to make the search snippet in two-thirds of the cases they looked at. This doesn’t mean that Google will do the same for your site, but it’s a sign that an article’s introduction should at least think about whether it would make a good meta description replacement.
It’s important to know the difference between meta descriptions and search snippets, especially when Google makes changes, like when they made search snippets longer (only to shorten snippets about six months later).
Why Are Meta Descriptions Important For SEO?
Meta descriptions used to be very important, but as more ranking factors came into play, they became less important. Now, they aren’t used at all for ranking. In fact, Google said in 2009 that meta information wasn’t as important as it used to be, even though search engines used it to rank pages in the early days of Google.
So how do we use them now?
Meta descriptions can help drive clicks, traffic, possible conversions, and sales by:
- Increasing a site’s CTR in the SERPs: Over the years, studies have shown that well-written and well-optimized meta descriptions can help increase your CTR. Sistrix put out a report that showed, for example, that when a featured snippet is added to a SERP, the CTR for position one drops by an average of 5.3%.
- Higher-quality traffic: The higher you are in the SERPs, the more likely it is that people will click on your site, which will lead to more high-quality traffic. Zero Limit Web found that 81.3% of searches led to a click on a Google result on page 1. And only 3.73% of clicks went to the results from 6 to 10.
- Possible conversions: If you write a well-written meta description that is closely related to the page’s topic, interesting to users, and highly optimized for user intent, you can get a lot more people to click through from search to your site.
What Is The Recommended Or Ideal Meta Description Length?
For years, it has been thought to be a good SEO practice to keep meta descriptions to no more than 160–165 characters (or 156-160 characters, depending on who you talk to).
The reason for this is that this optimization keeps the meta description from being cut off in the SERPs, which helps keep bounce rates low.
Test on your own. Find out what works on your site and do more of that.