Mastering your meta descriptions: a how to guide


If you want your website to rank well in online searches then getting your meta descriptions right is a good starting point. Meta descriptions are an essential part of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and help search engines and users to understand what’s in your website.

In this blog we’ll give you all the information you need to get your meta descriptions in order. We’ll take a look at what meta descriptions are, where you can find them and we’ll provide some pointers on how to write a good meta description.

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What is a meta description?

A meta description is a short summary of a webpage’s content that appears in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) under the page title and URL. It exists as a HTML tag that is added to the head section of a webpage, and it is typically limited to 155-160 characters in length.

The purpose of a meta description is to provide a brief and accurate summary of what the webpage is about. This helps users and search engines understand the content and value of the page. A well-written meta description can entice your users to click through to your webpage, potentially increasing traffic and engagement.

As well as summarising a webpage’s content, a meta description can also include relevant keywords or phrases that users may be searching for. This can help improve the webpage’s relevance and visibility in search results.

Where can you find the meta descriptions on your website?

Meta descriptions can be found in the HTML code of your website, specifically within the “head” section of each individual webpage. Here’s how you can find the meta description for a specific webpage on your site:

  1. Open the webpage in your web browser.
  2. Right-click anywhere on the page and select “View Page Source” or “View Source” (depending on your browser).
  3. This will open the HTML code for the webpage in a new window or tab.
  4. Look for the “head” section of the code (usually near the top), and find the “meta name=”description”” tag.
  5. The content within the “content” attribute of the “meta name=”description”” tag is the meta description for that webpage.

Alternatively, you can use a free online tool like Meta Tag Analyzer to quickly analyse your webpage’s meta tags, including the meta description. Simply enter your webpage URL into the tool, and it will generate a report that includes information about the meta description, such as the length, relevance, and keywords used.

How to write a meta description

Writing a strong meta description can help attract more clicks and visitors to your website. Here are some tips for writing an effective meta description:

  1. Keep it concise: Your meta description should be no longer than 155-160 characters to ensure that it is fully displayed in search results.
  2. Use compelling language: Use active verbs and descriptive adjectives to make your meta description more engaging and appealing to potential visitors.
  3. Include keywords: Incorporate relevant keywords into your meta description to help improve your page’s search engine ranking and visibility.
  4. Highlight your unique value proposition: Use your meta description to highlight what makes your website or page unique and valuable to visitors.
  5. Use a call-to-action: Encourage visitors to click through to your website by including a clear call-to-action in your meta description, such as “Learn more” or “Find out how.”
  6. Be honest and accurate: Make sure your meta description accurately reflects the content of your page and does not mislead or deceive visitors.
  7. Preview and test your meta description: Preview your meta description in Google’s SERP preview tool or other similar tools to see how it will appear in search results. Test different variations to see which ones generate the best click-through rates.

Remember, your meta description is a valuable opportunity to attract visitors to click through to your website. Take the time to craft a strong and compelling description that accurately represents your page’s content and value proposition.

How do different search engines look at meta descriptions?

While meta descriptions serve a similar purpose across different search engines, there can be differences in how they are displayed and used. Here are a few key ways that meta descriptions may differ between different search engines:

1. Character limits: Different search engines may have different character limits for meta descriptions. For example, Google typically displays up to 155-160 characters in search results, while Bing and Yahoo! may display up to 165-170 characters. This means that you may need to adjust the length of your meta description depending on the search engine you are targeting.

2. Keyword relevance: While all search engines use meta descriptions to provide a summary of a webpage’s content, they may place different levels of importance on the relevance of keywords and key phrases within the meta description. For example, Google’s algorithm places a high priority on the relevance of meta description content to the user’s search query, while Bing and Yahoo! place more emphasis on the presence and placement of keywords within the meta description.

3. Rich snippets: Some search engines, such as Google, may display rich snippets or other visual elements alongside meta descriptions to provide additional context and information about a webpage’s content. This can include things like star ratings, product images, or recipe details. Optimising your meta description for rich snippets can help improve your visibility and click-through rates.

4. Language and localisation: Different search engines may prioritise meta descriptions and other content in different languages or regions, depending on their user base and search algorithms.

Overall, while there may be some differences in how meta descriptions are used and displayed across different search engines, following best practices for writing compelling, keyword-rich, and relevant meta descriptions can help improve your visibility and click-through rates across all search engines.

Meta descriptions are an important component of SEO. They can help improve your click-through rates, provide context to search engines, differentiate your webpage from competitors, and improve user experience. By following best practices for writing compelling, keyword-rich, and relevant meta descriptions, you can increase your visibility and attract more visitors to your site.

caddie digital are your digital experts based in Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne. We provide support in all aspects of web design and development, including making sure your website is optimised for search. From Google to Bing and including the importance of voice search: contact us today and make SEO a priority for your website.

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