What is a Meta Description?
A meta description is the explanation of the potential value to be found on a page of your website. Every page, including blog posts, can, and should, have a well-written, unique meta description.
These descriptions are commonly seen on the page for search engine results:
In the case of search engine result pages, the meta description appears under the title and web page URL.
In addition to the search engine results, the meta description can be seen in social media sharing and social bookmarking sites. For example, this is how my website looks when it’s shared on Facebook:
In this case of social media sharing, the meta description appears under an image pulled from the page, the page title. The page domain appears under the meta description. The specific way this information is displayed will depend on the social media or social bookmarking site.
Traits of a Good Meta Description
People are looking for solutions to their problems. This is actually a general statement that applies to your entire website but it’s particularly relevant for meta descriptions in the case of search engine results.
When someone types something into the google search box, they are looking for answers and solutions. They skim the results for page titles, URLs, and meta descriptions and choose the result that may lead to the solution they are looking for.
A successful meta description is the one that offers the solution they’re looking for and therefore compels a potential visitor to click through to your page.
Extra points go to meta descriptions that don’t sound computer generated. Descriptions that are friendly and authentic will win over the robots every time.
Do’s and Don’ts for Better Meta Descriptions
- Do stay solution-focused. Think about what solution is being offered on the page and write your description around that. For the home page, your meta description can describe your website’s solution as a whole. Your meta description should always be relevant to what’s on the page.
- Don’t write all about yourself. Such as, “Dr. Soso graduated from Columbia with a degree in…” Clients are looking for solutions to their problems. Figuring out what school you went to is likely not on their list of problems.
- Do keep it brief. The meta description needs to be pretty short, from 150-160 characters. If you write any more than that, the description will get cut off.
- Don’t insert a laundry list of specializations. A list is not a description and comes across as a bit robotic.
- Do include relevant keywords. In order to be compelled, the user needs to read a description that is relevant to answering their problem which may have been searched for via keyword. The search terms that appear in your meta description will show up in bold on search engine results pages! You want those bolds to confirm that the page is a match for the search term they entered so utilize keywords strategically.
- Don’t start listing your contact information like your phone number and email address. Some people believe that putting their contact information into the meta description helps searchers because they won’t even have to load your website to get in touch with you. However a meta description is for describing the value to be found on the page. Meta descriptions are not a phone book listings.
- Do write one! If no meta description is inserted into your page, google, social media, and other meta description pullers will take other info from your page. Depending on the structure of your page, it could mean the items of your navigation menu, a form, sidebar, there are even cases of copyright information getting pulled into the meta description. It ends up looking very unprofessional. Better to write something mediocre than nothing at all.
The meta description is a great opportunity for you to showcase a snippet of your content and confirm that the page contains information that potential visitors are seeking. Seize the opportunity to let your solutions be known to the world!