How to Write Meta Descriptions

20 April 2021
by Archie Williamson
5 mins
How to Write Meta Descriptions

Meta descriptions are short snippets of text that summarise what a page is about and are crucial to SEO, as they are often presented in search results below a blue link.

While content marketing is rightly focused on the quality of the main content within a blog or article, on-page elements, such as meta tags and titles, need to be included and optimised because they can convince a searcher to click through to a site.

Meta descriptions are included within HTML code and ideally should be between 135 and 160 characters in length. They need to be concise yet informative and should include at least one or two target keywords, where possible. Shorter descriptions are preferable because search engines truncate them beyond a certain character limit, especially on mobile devices.

These meta descriptions are not actually posted at the top of the content on a page. They are instead placed within the HTML code for a particular web page in the “” section. This is something a webmaster can help you with but it should be straightforward.

Are meta descriptions a ranking factor?

While meta descriptions are a core aspect of search results design and can directly influence key metrics, Google says they are not a hard ranking factor and are not part of its ever-changing algorithm.

However, if people click on a result more due to its optimised on-page elements, Google can move that result higher in rankings as it is obvious to them that the page is providing value. Rather than viewing meta descriptions purely as an extension of SEO, instead consider them as a tool for optimising content and driving clicks and conversions.

The more descriptive and engaging these tags are, the better chance you have of a searcher taking action and visiting your page, rather than clicking on a competitor’s link or navigating away from Google entirely.

How should I write a meta description?

A recent study by Portent found that the length of meta descriptions should be tailored depending on the content format and type. For regular pages, a 150-160 character limit is recommended but blog posts can come in a little shorter, at 138-148 characters.

The study also advises SEOs to frontload the most important information. The first 100 characters of a meta description is the best place to put target keywords, for example, and anything else that really describes what the page is about.

Including a few keywords is a good idea but don’t stuff too many in, as writing legible and readable copy should be the priority here. You don’t want a description to sound spammy or awkward. Focus on natural language – basically how a human, rather than a bot, would write a sentence.

Meta descriptions are effectively an advertisement that can be used by webmasters to sell the content on a page. There is license to be creative but you must always talk about what is actually in the content. A mismatch between the two elements is not advisable.

They also need to be unique and not duplicated from one of your other web pages. Google can penalise sites that keep reusing meta descriptions en masse, so always come up with something new and engaging.

Another common mistake that should be avoided is the use of double quotation marks or any other non-alphanumeric characters, as these can affect how a description is displayed in Google SERPs.

You can, however, use schema markup to add more eye-catching elements, such as customer ratings and production information. Optimising for rich results, such as carousels and other non-textual elements, is something you should be doing with your content, so adding markup to descriptions can be really useful.

While they should also read naturally, you can include calls to action within them, depending on the content format. If the meta description is for a helpful blog, such as a how-to or tutorial, you could include phrases like “learn more” or “get it now” at the end of the description.

Finally, meta descriptions should use an active voice. This will make them lively and actionable, rather than dull and forgettable. Try to think about the possible motivation that readers may have that would drive them to consume your content, and play into that where possible.

Writing simple meta descriptions is not a vast undertaking but getting them just right is more challenging. This is yet another area where outsourcing could give your content output the extra edge it needs to rank in Google. By partnering with top UK SEO company, you can start producing content and the elements within that are correctly optimised for search.

Does Google always use the meta descriptions I write?

While writing excellent meta descriptions is an important part of SEO, you may be surprised to hear that Google actually rewrites many of these descriptions. The study by Portent found rewrites are more common on mobile but also happen regularly on desktop.

It appears that meta descriptions can be updated by Google depending on the position of a link in search results. The study notes: “I speculate that since positions 1-3 get the most click-through rate, Google might be trying to boost the relevance for 4-6 to get more clicks before users leave the page or search for something else.”

Higher search volumes also translate to a lower frequency of rewrites, as presumably, these pages are already performing well and don’t need amendments. The fact that Google feels the need to update descriptions highlights how important it is to optimise meta descriptions and couple them with relevant content from the get-go to increase visibility and drive click-through rates (CTRs).

By crafting the best meta descriptions for your pages and optimising other on-page elements, you can make your content more visible in search engines and lay the groundwork for additional clicks and sales.

If you want to start a SEO-focused marketing campaign and need access to high-quality content services, we can help. Contact us today and we will talk through the options available to you.


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