- Meta descriptions should be between 150 and 160 characters to have the best chance of Google using it.
- Make sure the meta description matches the intent of the page so searchers are clear on what they can expect to find on your page.
- Create an engaging meta description with creative text, call to actions, and your main keyword.
Does the thought of the word “meta description” terrify you? Confused on how to write meta descriptions? I have just what you need!
This meta description writing guide will have you creating engaging meta descriptions in no time.
You will never need to write a boring, or un-optimized meta description again.
But before we kick things off, let’s review the basics to make sure you understand what a meta description is and why Google may not even always use it.
What Is A Meta Description?
A meta description is a short summary, usually a character count of 150-160 or less, that is shown in the search results and gives a searcher an idea of what your page content is about.
When a searcher enters a query, it returns a lot of results in the search engines. Meta descriptions are one way you can encourage users to click your result over your competitors. So, it needs to be an important part of your SEO strategy.
Below is how our meta description looks in the search results for our brand name.
In the source code of your website it will look like the below:
<meta name=”description”content=”ZenSpill is a no-nonsense blog featuring tips, case studies, and tools that bloggers can use to grow and monetize their websites. No fluff. No bullshit.“/>
Is A Meta Description Required?
Yes, a meta description should be customized and unique for every page on your website that you want to rank in the search results. While it does not impact SEO directly – there are so many other benefits to creating them and they can offer indirect SEO benefits.
Some social media channels will also use it if you do not have a specific social description set.
Do Meta Descriptions Affect SEO?
No, a meta description is not a direct SEO ranking factor. It will not improve your site ranking in Google search but it may help with your click-through rate This in turn might help you rank higher because Google will see it as a highly relevant result.
Will Google Always Use My Meta Description?
No, Google will not always use your meta description.
And yes, this is incredibly frustrating.
A meta description study done by Ahrefs shows meta descriptions being rewritten almost 63% of the time.
They may pull it from your webpage content instead if it feels it serves the search query better. But writing meta content is still a good idea because if they do use it sometimes and it can really improve your click through rate if you do a good job with it!
When you write one that reflects your brand tone and is in line with your content on the page and includes a search term you can increase your chances of it showing in the search engine results page.
This in turn can help improve your organic traffic and position in the search engine results.
Let’s talk about my own sample meta description above. The screenshot is actually showing text from my home page.
But, this is what I actually have entered for my meta description.
<meta name="description" content="Tired of leaving names & credit card info to test SEO tools? Now you can see the best SEO tools live with a video preview from ZenSpill"/>
Truth be told – I like what they pulled so I will probably change it to that instead.
Is there anything I can do if my preferred description is not being used?
If Google is creating a meta description that is different than what you entered, that means there is something that does not align with the search the user did.
There is no way to force Google to use your meat description, but there are some things you can try to improve your odds.
- Do not have duplicate descriptions on your website. Every page should be unique.
- Make sure your website is using only one meta description per page.
- Keep the meta descriptions between 150-160 characters.
- Do not use weird characters in your meta description like emojis or question marks.
How To Write Effective Meta Descriptions
- Keep the length to approximately 150-160 characters.
- When you write your meta descriptions include a call to action!
- When you create your meta description – matching the page topic is critical.
- While some may say it is not relevant, we do recommend including your main keyword in your meta description – but keyword stuffing is not recommended!
- Make it conversational!
Some Awesome Examples of Meta Descriptions!
A great meta description will make you feel something. It might make you smile, sad, or ready to buy.
This means using a variety of tactics – depending on your brand and intent. Below are some of my favorite meta description examples to inspire you.
All of the examples below are meta descriptions that the brand wrote and that Google is using. Showing that if you create a strong meta description, it will be used instead of being changed!
Not only did they manage to clearly define what they sell, but they also defined their animal + earth friendly practices. This is a perfectly crafted meta description that will appeal to animal lovers, eco-aware customers, and those looking for healthier options for self-care.
MoonPie crafted a simple, but clear meta description that tells users what they can expect to find on their website. Short, sweet and to the point is what makes it a good one.
Making it clear what they sell is one reason this is a great example. But the addition of “loved by everyone” makes it extra special. In a subtle way they are telling men if they use Old Spice products – you will be loved by everyone. The play on words gives it a little extra something!
This meta description features a lot of great elements! From noting what they sell, to telling users the deals and savings they can get. This is an exceptional e-commerce example of a meta description.
Their meta description is probably a bit shorter than I would normally recommend. But it works. What makes it work is that it clearly defines Oreos as more than just a cookie and talks about all the different things you can do with it.
Their meta description clearly defines what they sell, how they are unique, and the fact they are USA made.
Great use of a meta description to show how many stores they have and how many states they are in. This will help capture users and entice them to click. But also sharing that they offer delivery is a great way to grab the attention of a different segment of their market.
We did a double take on this one because it did not seem real at first, but it is and it is funny as all heck. Do not be afraid to be funny! This is another good meta description with so much personality and a great title tag as well.
The Lonely Planet meta description reaches out to you by asking a question first – then clearly defines everything they do to help you plan your travel. It is personal. descriptive and perfectly fits the recommended character amount.
Clear and concise, Animal Outlook has a meta description that makes it clear what they do. As a nonprofit it is important to clearly note who you help so users understand if your organization is one they want to support.
Meta Description Testing
Testing is key to a successful website., I cannot stress this enough. I am also 100% guilty of not doing it enough myself.
By testing different meta descriptions you can see what works and what does not. You can find what Google likes (they will select yours instead of creating their own) and you can keep an eye on click-through rates.
Before posting your meta descriptions, make sure they look good and sound good. Read them out loud! This will help you understand how it will look – and sound to people in the search engines.
Webyurt is a free tool that offers a quick meta description tester for length.
Another highly recommended thing to do is A/B Testing your meta descriptions and title tags. We have just started working with A/B Rankings and are very happy with their platform so far.
You can get a 14 day free trial to test it out here.
You can also use SEOTesting which offers some great data to help you improve your meta descriptions and do testing as well.
If you prefer the free way of testing meta descriptions then you can do the following, which is how we have been doing it for years.
- Dig into the Search Console to find keywords that rank well and get a lot of impressions but low click thru rates.
- Create a spreadsheet with columns for date, meta description before and after and any other notes you would like to take.
- Change your description to a new version but make sure you put the old version in your spreadsheet.
- Wait about 30-60 days to see if the CTR for that post or page has improved. If so, keep the new one you created.
- If the page or post has dropped in CTR – then put the old meta description back or try a new version.