Meta Description

Why don't meta descriptions ever go on dates? Because they're always told they're too short ⌨⌨

A meta description is the HTML element that appears in search results and summarizes a page. Considered metadata, a meta description shows as part of a search snippet and aims to describe to a reader how a page relates to their search query.

The meta description is usually found within the <head> section of the HTML markup of a given page. Most content management systems (CMS), like WordPress and HubSpot, will create a fillable field where users can edit this markup directly without digging into a page’s metadata settings.

Meta descriptions are considered a crucial part of on-page SEO, even though they don’t directly impact rankings.

A meta description’s ultimate goal is to show off the value of a page. While it does not have a link to how well a page ranks (as previously assumed,) it plays a critical role in click-through rate. The meta description acts as a place where a website can not only convince a potential visitor that this page is the most relevant to their search, but also entice them to continue on to the page with a CTA and eye-catching language.

How long should a meta description be?

How long a meta description should be is vital to its success. On paper, a meta description can be as long as it likes, but a search engine will cut it off when it goes beyond a certain character length, rendering that effort useless. The recommendation, previously, was 150-170 characters. However, we know now that it’s actually the number of pixels that a description comprises that can make or break it. This means that getting it to that ‘just right’ length can be tricky.

It doesn’t help that Google has changed its mind a few times about what it considers the ideal length. In 2017, the recommendation doubled, going from 160 characters to a bulky 300. Not long after, the search engine reverted back to the 160-character standby. This flip-flopping is suspected to have been caused by Google widening its search results from 500 to 600 pixels, a change that occurred in 2016, and ‘testing out’ what worked best.

So, how long should a meta description be? With pixel count in mind, the usual recommended ‘sweet spot’ for a meta description is roughly 156 characters.

Should meta descriptions be unique?

Yes. While duplicate meta descriptions aren’t directly harmful to SEO – you won’t be penalized for accidentally doubling up – they are a bad practice. A meta description should accurately reflect what is on each page. Duplicates can confuse readers and make it harder for them to find exactly what they need.

Just as every page needs its own content, it should also have its own meta description.

Meta description logics

If you run an e-commerce website with thousands of product pages, the idea of writing a meta description for each one likely seems like an impossibly tall task. This is where a ‘logic’ comes in. A meta description logic will have a framework or template that it ‘fills in’ with information from the page.

For example, a grocery store may have “Shop at Grocery Mart for high-quality [H1] at the best prices,” where the H1 of a page is the name of each item. With this in mind, the descriptions will automatically populate: “Shop at Grocery Mart for high-quality Vidalia Onions at the best prices,”  “Shop at Grocery Mart for high-quality Garlic Herb Tomato Sauce at the best prices,” et cetera, so that every page still has a unique description.

A little more on meta descriptions

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