What is a meta description? A meta description is the brief snippet of text that appears below the blue link in a search engine result. This description summarizes the content of the webpage linked above it, and although it is not an official ranking factor in Google search results, it can be edited to encourage people to click through to the webpage. Do I Really Need a Meta Description? Including your entire keyword in the meta description can tell people right away that your webpage answers their question. Keyword: "how to plant a tree" Meta descriptions like the one above simply don't use time wisely -- the short time they have to convince a reader to click on their content. Write compelling content. But the meta description should also include keywords that help describe the content of the webpage. But high-quality descriptions can be displayed in Google's search results, and can go a long way to improving the quality and quantity of your search traffic." Meta descriptions are no different.
Meta descriptions — sounds complicated, right? If someone asked me about a meta description two years ago, I would’ve assumed they were trying to talk nerdy to me. It sounds like code, and way over a marketer’s head.
I’m happy to report that’s not the case.
Meta descriptions, despite their reputation, can be broken down in a fairly simple way. The more content you create and the further you dig into inbound marketing, the more you’ll discover how important meta descriptions are to the traffic and leads you expect your content to generate.
What is a meta description?
A meta description is the brief snippet of text that appears below the blue link in a search engine result. This description summarizes the content of the webpage linked above it, and although it is not an official ranking factor in Google search results, it can be edited to encourage people to click through to the webpage.
A meta description is basically what helps the searcher decide whether or not to click the link to an article or webpage. A meta description helps convince or persuade readers to choose your site. Oh, and the bolded words within a meta description — as shown in the screenshot below — indicate which words match those in the search query. Nothing too complicated, right?
Do I Really Need a Meta Description?
Now that we’re on the same page and you know what a meta description is, let’s answer another common question: Do you really need one? The short answer is yes. Here’s why:
1. Increases Clickthrough Rates & Visits from Organic Search
There might be 10 blue links per search engine results page (SERP), but they don’t all get clicked by an equal number of people. The higher up the result ranks, the more people who will see it and, in turn, click on it. To get your result to rank well, however, you need people to start clicking on it. Meta descriptions are your opportunity to entice people to click on your link instead of someone else’s.
2. Give the Right People the Right Information at the Right Time
Although meta descriptions do not directly influence your website’s rank on Google, they can benefit you when people conduct an Advanced Search. These types of searches allow searchers to enter more criteria for what words they want the results that follow to include. These criteria are known to affect your meta description, and can therefore determine if your webpage shows up at all.
3. Increase Visits from Social
Google isn’t the only website that displays your meta description when you publish a piece of content. Social networks like Facebook use what’s called an “open graph” to present the most important data on your webpage when you share it with your followers. This open graph includes a meta description. In other words, your meta description doesn’t just drive search engine traffic (also known as organic traffic) — it drives social media traffic, too.
Meta Description Length
The ideal length of your meta descriptions is, well, not so lengthy: no more than 160 characters, including spaces. But that ideal length has also changed somewhat in the last few years.
In December of 2017, SEO experts all over the world noticed something different about how much meta text Google’s search results were producing on each results page. Results were increasingly showing upwards of 300-character meta descriptions. Marketers took notice and began to adapt, but not before Google’s Danny Sullivan confirmed a retraction from the change it originally made:
Our search snippets are now shorter on average than in recent weeks, though slightly longer than before a change we made last December. There is no fixed length for snippets. Length varies based on what our systems deem to be most useful.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) May 14, 2018
To echo Sullivan’s insight, above, there is no perfect length to meta descriptions because the length displayed depends on how “useful” Google considers each description. However, staying within 155-160 characters will ensure your meta…