Meta Description Best Practices 2021

When you’re searching for SEO best practices, you’ll land upon mostly SEO guides for optimising content. Often, these SEO guides overlooked the importance of having a good meta description.

It’s true that creating high-quality, relevant content is key to getting indexed and ranked on Google. However, you’ll be missing out on an edge if you’re not putting efforts into meta description.

At this point, it could be puzzling because Google clearly stated that meta description is not a ranking signal. Google is also capable of rewriting meta descriptions on its search results.

If the meta description is not a ranking signal, shouldn’t you be focusing on other areas of SEO? After all, Google seems to be rewriting them anyway.

Well, no.

Google may not use the meta description in its search algorithm, but having an optimised meta description will indirectly influence SEO ranking.

Instead of treating meta description as a ranking factor, think along the line of conversion. An optimized meta description converts impressions into clicks, and that itself is a potential ranking factor.

Hints of Google using clicks as a ranking factor appears in 2015, with the following tweet by Danny Sullivan.

Good meta description

You don’t want to dismiss meta descriptions yet when you’re optimizing content for your site. In this article, we’ll show you why having a great meta description matters and how to create one that converts.

What Is Meta Description

A meta description is an HTML element that provides brief information on a webpage. Here’s how a meta description looks like in HTML format.

meta description in html format

On search results, the meta description is displayed below the page title.  Here's an example of a meta description:

example of good meta description

Why Is Meta Description Important For SEO?

Google is continually upgrading its search algorithm to provide a better search experience. Publishing great content is only part of what matters in ranking on Google.

What remains is for the content to be validated by users. If users found the content irrelevant, unappealing or dull, you’re likely to lose out on ranking to better content.

But first, you’ll need to get users to click and digest the content.

An optimised meta description will pique a user's interest to learn more about what’s offered on the webpage. Meanwhile, a badly optimised meta description only turns off users.

Here’s an example of a poor meta description where it’s just a variation of the page’s title. It’s a missed opportunity to provide a compelling reason for clicking into it.

poor meta description

Another example of a non-optimised meta description.

non-optimised meta description

Here’s an example of an optimised, good meta description for a business home page.

good meta description

In a couple of sentences, Razer explains what the business is all about and includes its short and catchy motto in the meta description.

Benefits of Optimising Meta Descriptions for Your Website

If you need any more reasons to start optimising meta description, here’s the list.

Better Click-Through Rates

It’s obvious that uninspired, dull, and confusing meta description does nothing to bring users to the websites.  The meta description is your one-off opportunity to get users to click on your content.

Even if Google is not using the default meta description, you should still do your best to optimise it. That’s because meta description is still shown on social media, forums, and other search engines.

Visitors accessing your site from other mediums also count as valid clicks and may improve SEO.

Lower Bounce Rates

The bounce rate is measured by the number of visitors exiting your site without accessing other pages compared to the total number of visitors.

While it’s natural to have high bounce rates for blog articles, businesses like e-commerce tend to have low bounce rates.

A lower bounce rate means the audience found the content helpful and proceeded to visit other pages on the site.

However, if the meta description of a webpage does not reflect the content, you’re likely to have a higher bounce rate.

Users are unable to have a realistic expectation of the content from unoptimised meta descriptions. When they found that the content does not match the description, they’re likely to exit the page within seconds.

A higher than average bounce rate indicates that your website isn’t serving its purpose and may compromise its chances to rank favourably on Google.

Higher Chances of Ranking on Google

There are possibly over 200 Google ranking factors, with some having more weightage than others. In SEO, you’ll want to maximise the chances of appearing on the first page and writing an optimised meta description is a good way to start.

By writing a good meta description, you’re helping the users to understand the underlying content. It leads to a good search experience, which is what Google hopes to achieve with its algorithm.

It’s an accepted fact that click-through-rate correlates with SEO ranking. Creating a compelling and optimised meta description will result in higher CTR, hence better ranking.

Google has also mentioned that it may occasionally extract a well-written meta description for search results snippets. Snippets are positioned above the #1 results and attracts a large portion of the traffic.

extracting good meta description for featured snippet

Here’s what a Featured Snippet looks like:

featured snippet example

How To Appear On Google Featured Snippets?

Google doesn’t disclose what it takes to land your content on Featured Snippets. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t give it your best shot.

From what’s been observed, these tactics help to rank on the Featured Snippets.

  • Provide thorough, yet organised information. Instead of offering a large chunk of content, break it into smaller subtopics to help readers digest the information.
  • Include a Q&A section on your site. Be concise and answer the questions in short paragraphs. It helps getting those answers on the featured Snippets.
  • Keep improvising. Ensure that your website has better UX than the competitor and you’ll stand a chance of claiming the coveted spot.

Higher Leads And Conversions

If you’re writing good paid ads copy, you ought to be spending the same effort for meta description. The meta description is your free ads copy on Google.

Creating a meta description that reflects your brand value is a form of marketing. Check out how McDonald’s is engaging with its customers with a simple brand-focused meta description.

simple brand focused meta description

By offering values in simple words that connect with the audience, you’ll increase the chances for leads and conversions.

Good Meta Description Best Practice

You have little to lose and much to gain by writing compelling, optimised meta descriptions. Here’s a few tips on how to write a good meta description:

Stay within the Meta Description Length Limit

Keep in mind that there’s a limit to the text in meta description displayed on Google search results. At the moment of writing, the limit is 920 pixels on computers and 680 pixels on mobile devices, meaning the best length for meta description is 160 and 120 characters respectively.

If the meta description exceeds the limit, the final part of it will be truncated in the search result.

truncated meta description

When the meta description is truncated, it loses its effectiveness in conveying the entire message to the audience. It’s also less appealing alongside other results with fully-displayed meta descriptions.

Use our meta description checker to ensure your meta description is within the viewable limit.

Include Focus Keywords

The intention of a meta description is to provide users with a glimpse of the underlying content. Therefore, it makes sense to include focus keywords in the meta description.

Include the primary keyword and if possible, secondary keywords in the meta description.

Check out how the Pet Lovers Centre includes ‘pet store’ as the primary keyword, and ‘pet supplies’ as the secondary keyword. The meta description also contains ‘Singapore’ as it’s targeting the customers in the country.

including focus keyword into meta description

Even if Google is not using meta description in the ranking, the related keywords are highlighted in the results. Those bolded texts automatically attract attention.

However, avoid keyword stuffing as that sends a signal to Google that you’re doing something fishy.

Here’s a classic example of unnatural keyword stuffing in meta description.

keyword stuffing

Adopt the Right Writing Style

When you’re writing a meta description, remember that you’re writing for the audience and not the search engine. Dull, robotic-like styles will never capture the user’s attention.

Instead, use active voice, be creative and reflect your brand value in the meta description. It helps to step into the shoes of the audience and consider the search intent.

When someone is searching for a local business, he/she is likely going to do some shopping online. Therefore, it helps to include the types of products or services in the meta description.

simple meta description

Goguru’s meta description is simple, concise and matches the search intent of users searching for ‘bookstore in Singapore’.

Include Call to Action

A compelling meta description will attract users alright, but sometimes, a little nudge is needed to have them clicking through it.

That nudge comes in the form of a call to action. It means using terms like:

  • Learn more
  • Download now
  • Shop now.
  • Claim your FREE trial.

You’re not doing any justice if you’ve got a great meta description but without a clear CTA. Meta description is a free advertisement, so make the most out of it.

Update Meta Descriptions

It makes sense to update meta descriptions on your website from time to time. Meta description optimisation is more of a try-and-monitor affair.

If you’re not getting the expected CTR, try using other keywords, or opt for trendy phrases that resonate with the audience.

It doesn’t hurt to ‘freshen up’ meta descriptions as long as they do not deviate from your brand values.

Also, Google loves updated content, and that includes meta descriptions.

Conclusion

It’s easy to neglect meta description when Google explicitly states that it’s not a ranking factor. However, SEO is not about writing for search engines.

In the larger picture, SEO is about providing the best search experience to users and having an optimised meta description is part of the game.

Keep the above-mentioned best practices in mind when you’re writing a meta description. Use Heroes of Digital meta description checker to stay within the viewable limit.

Questions? Feel free to reach out to our friendly digital consultants!

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    Xavier Tan
    Co-Founder
    Xavier is the Co-Founder of Heroes of Digital. He started social media marketing and SEM long before it became popular in Singapore. His passion is in helping businesses grow through effective lead generation. He has overseen campaigns for Amara Hotel, NTU, Marina Bay, L'Oreal, and 100+ SMEs.

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