5 Tips for Writing Effective Meta Descriptions (and why they matter)

March 7, 2012

Think back to the last time you picked up a book at a bookstore or the library. Chances are, you took a moment to flip it over and read the back cover before deciding whether or not it was worthwhile. Meta descriptions, found inside the <head> element in the HTML, are essentially the ‘back cover’ of a web page. They give search engines and potential site visitors a concise explanation of the content on the site. Meta description tags, as well as title and meta keyword tags, form a group of elements known collectively as metadata.

Meta descriptions

While meta descriptions do not directly factor in to your page’s search engine rankings, they do play a significant role in a page’s SEO. Writing relevant and accurate meta descriptions will increase your site’s click-through-rate from search engines, as they are often used as the description of your page when it appears in search results (and in links on social media sites like Facebook or Google+.)

Meta Descriptions - Google



Take a look at these beginner tips for improving your site’s meta descriptions to see if you’re getting the most out of your metadata!

1. Don’t overlook them

This may seem self-explanatory, but it’s easy for meta descriptions to land on the “nice-to-have” list when preparing a site for launch (since they don’t actually factor in to the algorithm used by most search engines for ranking websites.) Writing effective meta descriptions is neither difficult nor particularly time-consuming, and making the effort to create them will pay off exponentially for your site’s search engine presence.   

2. Make them compelling, concise and informative

You may come across sites in search results with one keyword phrase in the description, repeated over and over again. It might even appear IN ALL CAPS!! Even with the best intentions, searchers and search engines view these descriptions as spam, and will avoid your site altogether. An ideal meta description should read as a brief, engaging sentence. It’s meant to grab a searcher's attention,  spark interest in what's on the page and encourage a searcher to find out more by clicking on the site (while keeping the exclamation marks to a minimum.) 

3. Keep them between 150 and 160 characters

Without a defined meta description tag, search engines will find text in the content of the page for the description (which may or may not be a good representation of your site.) Additionally, this filler text will get snipped at around 160 characters, which could make it unclear. Keeping your meta description between 150 and 160 characters will ensure that you maximize the space available and avoid having your text cut off.

4. Utilize (but don’t abuse) important keywords

Google (and most other major search engines) will bold search queries in the title and description of websites that appear in the search results. Because of this, it’s a good idea to incorporate targeted keywords (and your location, if relevant) in to your meta descriptions - if a word or phrase in your description matches the original search, the bold terms will likely catch the eye of the searcher. 
Meta Descriptions - Google

5. Create unique descriptions

Another tactic website owners will sometimes use is to Copy+Paste the same description for every page across the entire website. While meta descriptions can’t help your page rank, duplicate content can certainly hurt it. Go through each page and write a completely unique description based on the content on that page, not what the entire website has to offer. If you have similar pages (such as a separate page for each product you sell,) create a formula to systematically craft unique descriptions because on product name, brand or color.

Many of today’s content management systems will automatically generate meta descriptions for each page based on its content. HiFi also gives users the option to edit the description, as the well as the title tag, for increased customization. What are the things you’ve found helpful when writing meta descriptions?


Sara Field's avatar
Sara Field
It's a very concise n informative article ..thanx fir making it simple
Surface House's avatar
Surface House
Thank you for the straightforward explanation. I will be rewriting my meta descriptions into sentences then! My descriptions are currently a list of words describing each design, although I did pay attention not to reuse the same word order for more than one image. Having read this I shall be tweaking..
Much appreciated!
Jeni Anderson's avatar
Jeni Anderson
Meta description is very important onpage SEO technique. Inserting meta keyword into your webpage is the effective way to bring your website first in Search engine. It is the best way to increase traffic for your website.
Eminem's avatar
Meta description is very impotent part for on page SEO. Because a meta keyword is very impotent to rank you site in google to list or top rank. So write a useful meta keyword become key to success.
eonkart's avatar
Meta description is very important factor for website, it easily describe the services that you provides in website. Thanks for sharing some useful information on Meta description.
Tabby's avatar
Meta descriptions will really help your site be identified by search engines. Thanks for the new ideas and ways to construct my meta descriptions.
Ged Ward's avatar
Ged Ward
Claire thanks for the clear explanation of what and how meta descriptions should be on each page. I think i should re-visit mine and make them more clear as they were written by my designer in India so don't come across in perfect English. Can i ask if you change these does that cause problems from what they used to be?
Sebastian's avatar
thanks for sharing this helpful post.I would also add to you that we should have a call to actions in our description to get mroe click throughs
Nadzorni's avatar
I’ve read many posts but this one has a lot of new things that I haven’t seen before.
Thanks for the sharing this great information with us.
GrafXQuest's avatar
Thank you so much I am revamping my site and this will help a lot!
saikumar's avatar
very nice article.. i like that idea different pages of the particular site must contain different meta descriptions. it will surely increase CRT rate
CookieCoCo's avatar
Nice post Claire. We're going to start working on this today - time consuming but well worth it.
Online Opticians's avatar
Online Opticians
A great article. It is tempting to take the easier route of copy/paste, especially when you have a site with thousands of pages.
Set a goal of doing 'x' amount of pages each day and by chipping away at each page(s), you will eventually have all of your titles/meta data correct for customers, search engines and rankings.
Ron's avatar
Very true. Never overlook it and a wrong strategy, I.e. Copy Paste will hurt your rankings big time.
cloverpeek's avatar
this was an amazing article that for your help

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