What if there was a way to improve click-through rate, drive more traffic to your website, and better delight users, all in 160 characters or less? It’s all possible when you take the time to add well-crafted meta descriptions to your website.
In this quick guide, we’ll walk you through everything there is to know about meta descriptions: what they are, why they matter, and how they can help elevate your website’s search performance in measurable ways.
What is a meta description?
A meta description is the short block of text that appears below the title on the search engine results page (SERP).
It also pulls on social media when you share a page or post:
If you do not manually enter a meta description, the search engine will display copy from the page instead. This is usually the first one or two sentences on the page. In some cases, it will pull an excerpt from the middle of the text if this passage contains the keyword being searched.
How long is a meta description?
There is no character minimum or maximum for a meta description, but longer descriptions will be cut off. The cut-off point depends on the screen size – a wide-screen desktop display will generally show a longer meta description than a mobile phone display. As a general rule, if you limit your descriptions to 160 characters or 512 pixels wide, they will display fully on most devices.
Why do meta descriptions matter?
If you don’t have well-crafted meta descriptions, you’re missing out on a few major opportunities.
- Show What’s on the Page
Your meta description should give a clear, succinct summary of what you can expect to find on the page. If your meta description talks about laptops and a user clicks and ends up on a page about tablets, they’re going to be disappointed and pogo-stick back to the search results page. This will ultimately cause that page’s rankings to plummet for laptop-related keywords, because it clearly doesn’t delight users. Use the meta description to set expectations for searchers.
- Entice Readers
Showing what’s on the page is only the first step. If I write a meta description like “This page is about shoes, sneakers, an footwear,” nobody is going to be excited to click, even if they know exactly what to expect on the page. A meta description like, “Find comfortable running shoes for sale from top brands in footwear like Nike, Adidas, and New Balance. Shop now!” makes it clear what the page is about, but also draws the reader in by explaining your value. Which page would you be more likely to click?
- Qualify for Featured Snippets
Featured snippets are excerpts that appear on the search results page.
They also pull the answers to those questions you sometimes see on the search results page:
In the past, Google has pulled this data from three different sources: