What is a Meta Description?

Meta descriptions are HTML attributes that provide concise summaries of webpages. They commonly appear underneath the blue clickable links in a search engine results page (e.g. Google, Bing etc).

What is the Optimal Length?

Meta descriptions can be any length, but search engines generally replace snippets longer than 160 characters. It’s best to keep meta descriptions long enough that they summarize what the page is about, but shorter than 160 characters, and longer than 70 characters.

Optimal Format

Meta description tags are extremely important in gaining user click-through from a search engine results page. These short paragraphs are a great opportunity for you to advertise your content to searchers. This gives searchers the chance to decide whether the content is relevant and contains the information they’re seeking from their search query. A page’s meta description should employ the keywords that your page is targeting. The description needs to be compelling enough for searchers to click, so don’t just list every keyword you want in the description. It should be directly relevant to the page it describes, and unique from the descriptions for other pages.

Google Ranking

Google has stated that neither meta descriptions nor meta keywords factor into Google’s ranking algorithms for web search. Google uses meta descriptions to return results when searchers use advanced search operators to match meta tag content, as well as to pull preview snippets on search result pages, but it’s important to note that meta descriptions do not directly influence Google’s ranking algorithms for normal web search. However, an effectively written meta description can entice people to click through to your site, and those clicks most certainly do influence rankings. For that reason, it’s important to put some effort into these descriptions.

Avoid Duplicate Meta Description Tags

As with titles, it’s important that meta descriptions on each page be unique. One way to combat duplicate meta descriptions is to implement a dynamic and programmatic way to create unique meta descriptions for automated pages. If possible, though, there’s no substitute for an original description that you write for each page.

Search Engines won’t always use your Meta Description

In some cases, search engines may overrule the meta description you have specified in the HTML of a page. Precisely when this will happen is unpredictable, but it often occurs when Google doesn’t think the existing meta description adequately describes the page copy and identifies a snippet from the target page that better matches a searcher’s query.

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