How Do Meta Descriptions Affect SEO and What Is Their Purpose?

How do meta descriptions affect SEO? Read this article to learn about the relationship between meta descriptions and search engine optimisation.

How Do Meta Descriptions Affect SEO and What Is Their Purpose?

Optimising your site for search engines includes many tactics and techniques. When it comes to on-page and off-page SEO, many factors come into play. 

One of the most crucial elements of on-page SEO is meta descriptions. These are short descriptions of web page content. They're visible to website visitors and search engines.

While their importance is undeniable, how do meta descriptions affect SEO? 

In this article, we'll discuss the importance of meta descriptions for SEO. We'll also talk about how to use meta descriptions to your advantage.

✏️ What Is a Meta Description?

A meta description is an HTML element used to summarise a page's content.

Meta descriptions are usually one to two sentences long. They offer short summaries of the linked page.

You can see many meta descriptions when you look for something on Google Search. In fact, you'll come across a dozen of them on the first page of search results. 

It's the search snippet positioned under a page's meta title tag.

A meta description has many aims, including:

  • Giving users a preview of a web page in search results
  • Helping search engines understand the relevance and context of a page
  • Enhancing user experience by giving a brief overview of what users can expect 
  • Allowing you to showcase your brand's voice, tone, and unique selling points
  • Giving you some control over how your web pages are presented in search results
  • Increasing search rankings through click-through rates

A meta description shouldn't be confused with a meta tag. 

The latter fits into a broader category that includes various HTML tags. It's used to provide extra information about a page. 

Meta tags are placed within the <head> section of an HTML document. They serve different purposes. For example, SEO, social media integration, and browser behaviour instructions.

In other words, a meta description is a specific type of meta tag.

🔊 Why Are Meta Descriptions Important for SEO?

Search engine algorithms are always changing. So, do meta descriptions still matter for SEO? The answer is yes and no.

Meta descriptions aren't a direct Google ranking factor. But they're still important for search engine results.

But how do meta descriptions affect SEO? 

When a user types something on Google Search, it's the first thing they see. If the meta description is compelling enough, users are more likely to go to that page. 

A page's meta description can improve its click-through rate.

Your click-through rate directly impacts incoming traffic to your website. This increases your online visibility and conversion rate.

Meta descriptions can affect other user engagement metrics. For example, longer dwell time, reduced bounce rate, and increased page views. 

All these metrics are positive user engagement signals. Search engines consider them when assessing the quality and relevance of a page.

Someone might share your page on social media platforms. In this case, the meta description often appears as the accompanying text. 

An engaging meta description can make social media users click on the shared link. This drives traffic to your website. It can also increase your visibility on social media platforms.

In summary, meta descriptions are good for SEO in the following ways:

  1. Increased click-through rate
  2. More organic traffic
  3. Enhanced online visibility
  4. Improved user engagement metrics
  5. Social media sharing

✍️ How to Come Up with a Good Meta Description?

Let's talk about how to come up with good, catchy meta descriptions.

Here are some tips on how to write good meta descriptions:

  1. Write a unique meta description for each web page
  2. Keep it short, ideally between 155 and 170 characters
  3. Use the focus keyword or keyword phrase
  4. Include a call-to-action (CTA)
  5. Use the active voice
  6. Make sure the meta description matches the page content and the user's search intent

According to Google, you should write unique meta descriptions for each web page. 

Google also recommends including only relevant information related to the content. If a page offers something distinctive or unique, mention it in the meta description.

Keeping your meta description short is another important step. Meta descriptions that are too long won't be properly displayed in search results.

Make sure to add relevant keywords to your meta description. This helps search engines understand the topic and relevance of your page.

Include a persuasive call-to-action in your meta description. Doing this will prompt users to take action. 

Whether it's "Learn more," "Discover," or "Shop now," a CTA can encourage users to click on your link and visit your website.

It's also essential to understand the needs and interests of your target audience. Tailor your meta descriptions to resonate with their motivations and search intent. 

Speak directly to their desires and show how your page can fulfil their needs.

❌ Common Mistakes When Writing a Meta Description

Coming up with a meta description doesn't sound too difficult at first glance. After all, it's only one sentence.

But there are certain rules you should follow when thinking of a meta description. If you don't follow even one of those rules, it could lead to a plunge in search engine results.

Here are some of the most common mistakes people make when writing meta descriptions:

  • Using duplicate meta descriptions for different pages
  • Exceeding the recommended length
  • Keyword stuffing
  • Writing unnecessary information and fluff
  • Using the passive voice

Don’t use duplicate meta descriptions for different web pages. They won't rank well on search engine results pages (SERPs). 

If you're worried you have duplicate meta descriptions, run a site audit. It can reveal if any pages have missing meta descriptions.

Keeping meta descriptions concise is crucial. Don't go over the recommended length of around 155 to 170 characters. This may result in shortened descriptions in search results. 

Users won't be able to understand the content, lowering click-through rates. Stick to the recommended length to ensure the entire meta description displays.

Your meta description should accurately describe a page's content. Avoid any fluff and unnecessary information. 

Don't resort to keyword stuffing and writing misleading descriptions to attract clicks. This will result in negative search engine rankings.

Finally, instead of using the passive, opt for the active voice. Doing so will make your content sound more dynamic and engaging.

🗃️ Why Does Google Sometimes Choose Random Snippets?

Search engines may sometimes display alternative text snippets from the web page content. Even if you have a meta description, this might still happen.

Google shows your meta description as the page's summary because it acts as organic ad text. In other words, it ranks like keywords. 

But, in some cases, Google and other search engines might ignore your meta description. Instead, they'll display different text in search results.

You can't predict when something like this will happen. But it usually happens when your meta description doesn't meet Google's snippet guidelines.

These are some factors that can affect whether Google does this:

  • Relevance to user query
  • Freshness
  • Timeliness
  • Length
  • Context constraints

Some users choose to leave the page's meta description empty. That way, Google can scrap the page and choose an appropriate piece of text. Others don't want to leave it to chance and write meta descriptions anyway.

Make sure to follow the writing guidelines above. By doing so, you can make sure Google and other search engines will use your meta description.

According to Yoast, Google might use your meta description tag if you include the focus keyword.

Search engines may not always use the specified meta description. But, creating well-written and relevant meta descriptions is still an important step. So, don't skip it.

💡 Do Meta Descriptions Matter for SEO?

Meta descriptions do not directly impact search engine rankings. But, they play a crucial role in attracting users to click on your website on SERPs.

That's why it's so important to write a unique, engaging meta description. You need to write meta descriptions that will accurately reflect your web pages.

If you follow the writing guidelines from this article, you shouldn't have any issues. You'll be able to come up with some great meta descriptions that Google will approve of.

If you need help writing meta descriptions or with any other aspect of SEO, RankRise is here for you.

We're a digital marketing company that specialises in SEO. We can increase your search engine results and bring in more potential customers. 

Contact us for more information. 

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Tijana Abadic
Tijana Abadic

Tijana is a content writer with three years of experience working for digital marketing firms and creating informative and engaging content for diverse industries. As a content strategist at RankRise, she specialises in writing and editing long-form content that reflects the brand and drives results.

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