What Is a Meta Description?

What Is a Meta Description?
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What is a meta description? A meta description is a snippet of code on each page of your website that tells search engines and other applications what the description of your page is. When you perform a search on Google, the descriptions below the links you’re seeing in the results are meta descriptions.

Your meta title and meta description work together to create your website’s result, or “snippet,” in search results. That’s not the only spot they appear, though — social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn will pull in your title and meta description to their preview when your pages are shared there.

Although you want your meta descriptions to be optimized for search, Google does not use them as a ranking signal. However, they do definitely influence searchers to click on your result. When writing them, think of them as an ad for your page content. How can you compel a searcher to click on your result over the others on the page?

That said, Google now rewrites a pretty astonishing number of meta descriptions within their search results in order to more closely match a searcher’s query. They’ll grab text from anywhere on your page to make your result look more enticing. In fact, according to a study by Ahrefs, Google rewrites your meta descriptions an astonishing 62.78 percent of the time for their search results!

Does it still pay to spend time writing out awesome, optimized meta descriptions then? Yes, it still does. You have no way of knowing when Google will rewrite them, or for which pages, so it’s best to have great ones in place.

According to a study by @ahrefs, Google rewrites your meta descriptions an astonishing 62.78% of the time! Yet, it still pays to spend time writing them. #SEO Click To Tweet

A few best practices for writing meta descriptions

  • Length should be no longer than 160 characters
  • Think of them like an ad for why a user should click on your page from search results
  • They should clearly explain what a user will find when he or she visits your page
  • Use keywords where they make sense, but don’t try to stuff a bunch in there

A great meta description example

One example of a time that Google most likely won’t change your meta description is when a searcher performs a branded search. So the meta description you write for your home page should be well-written, concise, and compelling.

This one for Fit Small Business is so short and to-the-point, but still gives you the information about them that you need to decide to click.

It reads: “Our mission is to provide small business owners with the information you need to succeed. Learn how to start, market, run, and grow your business today!”

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About the author

Jolissa Skow

An English degree gives me writing skills, 6 years of SEO agency experience gives me digital marketing knowledge, and my content strategy experience rolls all those things together to make one pretty knowledgeable and skilled marketing writer. I'm published on UpCity, Salesforce, G2, and more. I'm also an avid reader and run a book blog in my spare time.