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Writing Meta Descriptions: 5 Effective Do’s & Don’ts

Meta descriptions may not be the highest priority on your list when writing content, creating an editorial calendar, or blogging. Still, it is an essential step in publishing and helping your overall SEO. When we think of SEO, many believe this is about ranking higher in Google search results or other search engines. But we need to remember that search engine optimization is also to help attract users, establish authority, engage with your audience, and create action. 


What is a meta description?

A meta description is like the inside jacket of a hardback cover, only it’s much, much shorter. They are one to two-sentence descriptions of what your users will find on a specific page of your website. Like a book jacket, you want it to be catchy and informative but also keep within SEO guidelines.


Where can you find them?

When you search for a website or a topic on Google or another search engine, you will see a whole list of the meta descriptions on the results page. They are the small paragraphs of text under the clickable URL title of a webpage. 

A screen shot of NWMC's SEO Vancouver search result with the meta description highlighted in a purple box.

Why are meta descriptions important for SEO?

In SEO, we aim to increase user traffic to a website by creating great content, user-friendly websites and using keywords to help your website rank higher in search results. So, we want to incorporate all three of these elements with meta descriptions. This short sentence needs to be well written, user-friendly, and include important keywords for your industry.


How to write meta descriptions

There are hundreds of ways to describe your web pages and what content can be found on them. But formating your descriptions and making sure you include key elements will be what sets you apart from others and rank higher with search engines. Here are five mistakes we see the most with meta descriptions. 


1. Meta description length

The first mistake many people make when writing a meta description is that they write too much. A long description will be cut off when a user views it in the search results. The golden rule for meta description lengths is a maximum character length of 160 for desktop and 120 characters for mobile. Character length and word or letter length is different. Punctuation and symbols are considered characters, so make sure you are not only looking at the words or letters when you are writing your description.


2. They need to be consistent with what’s on the page

You work hard on creating unique page content. Let the meta description showcase this for you! They help summarize what is on the page and catch your audience’s attention. So, take the time to write unique descriptions for each page and blog posts about what is on the page. 

If a description lacks detail and does not reflect what is on the page, you risk search engines not using it and harming your content from being indexed and ranked correctly. 


3. Not taking the time to find relevant keywords

Meta descriptions expand your title, which is a great opportunity to strategically place important keywords. Research the keywords your audience uses to find your competitors and your website. Then, in your description, find ways to incorporate these keywords into the flow of your sentence. 

Do not just write keywords in just to write them in. Keyword stuffing can harm your ranking! Find ways to creatively include them into your meta description that make sense and reads well. 


4. Duplicate descriptions on your website

When running an SEO website audit, we see a very common error all the time: “Duplicate Meta Descriptions.” Copying and pasting the same meta description onto all of your web pages is seen as corner-cutting and lazy. But it also hurts your overall SEO and website health. Search engines do not like duplicate content. Take the time to write these, and it will be well worth the effort.


5. Nothing

Many websites lack meta descriptions either because they don’t have the time to write them or because they don’t know what they are. But these short sentences can do wonders to help your website rank higher in search results. And if your competitors are part of the group lacking these descriptions, making sure your website is optimized with them will give you an advantage.


Meta descriptions are worth the time

Hopefully, now you will understand why meta descriptions are so important for your website’s overall health and know how to get started creating engaging well-written descriptions. This small attention to detail may help boost your ranking and help new users find your website over others. 

Not sure where to start on your website’s SEO? Get a free SEO Audit and find out what steps to take to help boost your traffic. Our team of SEO and Marketing experts is here to help!

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