Meta Descriptions are simple to understand. Don’t you just hate it when people in SEO patronisingly tell you that something is simple to understand? Well, I’m not going to patronise you in that way, I’m going to patronise you differently, using a barely-feasible scenario. It’s a little bit like SEO roleplay for the mind, but not as sexy as that might sound.
Meta Descriptions – what’s the scenario?
Imagine for a moment that shopping on the high street is a pleasing experience. I know that might be a stretch of the imagination for some of us, but bear with me here. After picking up a reasonably priced and perfectly made coffee, you sit in the sunshine with the person you love and soak up the gentle ambience of the modern town centre.
Shoppers are shopping, moochers are mooching about, and pigeons are pidging. As the comfortable silence you are enjoying with your partner rolls into its tenth minute, your mind starts to wander. You’re feeling good, almost like you’re on holiday. Then you realise that the last time you read a good book was probably when you were on holiday last year in Skegness.
The urge to buy a decent book to read takes you, and you enthusiastically perambulate to the nearest bookshop. Once inside the bookshop, a cheerful assistant asks if you need any help. You joke about a DIY task you have been putting off at home and ask if the assistant owns a stout pair of trousers and might be available next Tuesday. The assistant smiles nervously at you and asks if you want to be pointed towards the DIY section of the bookshop.
After spending too long explaining to the assistant that you were making an attempt at humour, you make your excuses and wander off in search of the ‘modern science-romance gothic architecture fiction’ (insert own fiction preference here).
Hands clasped behind your back, leaning forward slightly and pursing your lips in a way that people only seem to do in bookshops, you let your eyes wander the bookshelves. As you look at the spines of the books, several jump out as the types of modern science-romance gothic architecture novels you love.
You gently slide a book from the shelf and smile approvingly at the illustration of a unicorn carrying a hod full of bricks on the cover and naturally you want to know more. You turn the book over to read the blurb on the back; only to find that the read cover is completely blank. You discard the book by tossing it backwards over your shoulder. After apologising to the Nunn, who happens to be standing behind you, you grab another book off the shelf.
The urge to spend money is rising, so after mumbling your approval of the book cover to nobody in particular, you turn the book over to read the blurb on the back. This time there is plenty of writing, but it appears to have been chosen randomly from a passage deep within the book. Useless!
Third time lucky! You pick up a book titled ‘The Seraphim, the mitre and the haunted new-build’ and tentatively, hopefully, turn to look at the rear cover. This time there’s a blurb that is concise, engaging and enticing. Huzzah! You rush to the tills and cheerfully thrust fistfuls of cash at the cashier.
TL:DR – A meta description is like a book blurb for a page on you website
The importance of Meta Descriptions in SEO
A meta description is the name for the little bit of text that appears under your page title in search engine results (SERPs).
If you have a WordPress website, it’s super easy to write a proper meta description using Yoast, Rankmath, or any of the other SEO plugins. If you have a Squarespace site, you’ll find the meta description box by looking at the SEO section of the page or post settings. You’ll even find meta description facilities in Wix (sigh).
A lot of website owners overlook writing meta descriptions, which is a mistake because they are a good opportunity to write a snappy advert for your website. If you do not specify a meta description, then search engines will likely just pick the chunk of text that they think should act as the description for your page in SERPs.
Look at the two poorly mocked-up examples of meta descriptions below; which would you be more likely to click?
Admittedly, in this case, you would probably choose neither unless you had exceptionally specific tastes within the modern science-romance gothic architecture genre.
A meta description isn’t a ranking factor per se, so Google won’t take it into consideration when deciding where you should rank, but in SEO, success breeds success. If Google sees low down results in SERPs getting a lot of love, then there’s a good chance that result will ascend the rankings.
Writing good meta descriptions is about more than writing the most appealing bit of clickbait; it’s also about ensuring the clickbait is the right length. Too long, and Google will snip it to make it fit, too short and it can appear like you can’t be arsed to make an effort to potential clients and customers (not entirely accurate, but sort of true).
According to this fascinating article by SEO heroes ahrefs:
- 25.02% of top-ranking pages don’t have meta descriptions
- 40.61% of pages have meta descriptions that truncate
I’ll admit we’re playing a bit fast and loose with generalisations here. Still, according to the ahrefs report, nearly half your competitors could be ignoring meta descriptions when chucking their wares up onto the Internet.
There’s a golden rule in SEO that if a tasks is a pain in the arse, then most of your competitors won’t bother doing it. Learn to embrace and celebrate the arse pain, and you’ll win at SEO.
Our bonus tip for writing great metadata is to read up on how to write fantastic marketing copy. Snappy headlines and tightly written adverts have an awful lot in common with compelling meta descriptions! We recommend visiting the Lewis Folkard copywriting website for free tips and interesting ad analysis!
Meta Descriptions – explain them to me like I’m five years old, please!
Meta descriptions are summaries that appear under the title and URL on search engine result pages. They tell people what your web page is about. Your meta descriptions should be interesting so people will want to visit your website.