what is a meta description - cover image

What is a Meta Description?

A meta description is an HTML tag on a web page that provides a brief summary of what users can expect to find when they click through to a web page.

Typically, meta descriptions are written by website owners to attract users to click through to their web page by providing a captivating summation of page contents. Meta descriptions appear in the search engine results pages (SERPs) as 150 –160-character blocks of text under the HTML Title Tag element.

meta description example

Here is what that meta description looks like as HTML code:

meta description HTML code

Meta descriptions provide valuable insights into the significance of your content and can be a determining factor in how much traffic your site generates. Contrary to some opinion, meta descriptions are not an SEO ranking factor and will not be considered when Google (and other search engines) rank a web page.

Meta Descriptions FAQs

Why is Having a Meta Description Important?

Having a meta description is essential as it attracts a user to your site by providing a concise, worthwhile response to the user’s search query. Google, and other search engines, have confirmed there is no direct SEO benefit from your meta description. Despite this, having a meta description can increase the number of clicks to your page, which in turn increases your overall authority on the search engine and see you climb rankings.

What Makes a Good Meta Description?

A good meta description should deliver a captivating summation of the page within 155 to 160 characters. You want your meta description to be concise enough that it doesn’t get truncated but long enough so that you can provide enough information about your page to draw in users. The ideal length will depend on the context of the page you are writing about, and your main goal when concocting a meta description should be to encourage clicks. Your meta description should weave your page’s target keywords in an organic way that catches the user’s attention to click onto the page.

what makes a good meta description

Are Meta Descriptions an SEO Ranking Factor?

No. Meta descriptions are not an SEO ranking factor. This does not detract from their importance; however, as the guide below will detail, there are some non-immediate impacts your meta description can have on your rankings.

What If I Don’t Specify A Meta Description?

If you do not have a meta description specified in the HTML elements on your web page, Google (or other search engines) will write the meta description based on the most relevant content that it can find on your web page. To improve click through rate, it is worth specifying a meta description that is relevant and captures the attention of users. A high-quality meta description is far more likely to attract clicks than a random snippet of copy taken from a web page.

How Long Can A Meta Description Be?

The recommended length for a meta description is between 150-160 characters. Technically there is no set length for how long your meta description can be, but any longer, and Google will most likely cut it off and abbreviate the snippet.

Does Device Type Change Meta Description Length?

Yes! There is much less room in your meta descriptions on a mobile site than there is for a desktop. The average character length for a mobile site’s meta description is around 120 characters. Portent found that Google is more likely to rewrite your meta description on mobile than it is on desktop at a rate of 71% to 68%.

Why Didn’t Google Use The Meta Description I Wrote?

Google will often automatically change your meta description if it believes your description does not summarise the page effectively or better line the content of either the page or the meta description up with the search query. According to the most recent data from the Search Engine Journal, Google rewrites more than 70% of all meta descriptions. This study was from more than two years ago, and the latest insights suggest that this number could be as high as 90% in 2022.

why Google didn't use a meta description

Wrapping Up

So, how important is a meta description? Whilst your meta description may not directly influence your rankings on a search engine rankings page, they are important indicators of the quality of your site’s content in answering a search query for popular keywords. It is still important to produce compelling, unique, actionable copy that contains your target keywords to bring users to your site.

Remember, meta descriptions are just a drop in the ocean when it comes to a winning SEO strategy. Creating a long-term search engine optimisation strategy means understanding the content, technical, and off-site elements that influence how your website ranks and competes in the search engines results.

Not sure where to start or need some help? Safari Digital’s SEO Newcastle team can develop a customised SEO strategy that makes SEO simple and sustainable for your business. Get in contact to find out how our team can help you grow online.

safari digital call to action