Meta descriptions. You’ve heard of them and heard you need them, but you’re not sure what they are, how to write them or where to put them.
It turns out, it’s not super complicated, and you absolutely can have great meta descriptions for your website. Read on, friends.
What’s a meta description?
A meta description is a short bit of text that describes your web page. It’s often seen below your title and URL on a search engine results page (SERP) (although the search engine may choose different text from your page to display if it’s more helpful).
Meta descriptions technically don’t affect search engine rankings, but are a great opportunity to give descriptive snippets of your pages and entice readers to click.
Each page has a place for a meta description and if one isn’t supplied, search engines may display some text from your page instead.
Does my page have a meta description?
Let’s get geeky.
In Chrome, go to View, Developer, View Source. Near the top you’ll see a meta tag with a description attribute. Whatever is listed after content is your meta description.
You’ll see that my current meta description is: “WordPress Developer in Pittsburgh, PA. Are you an entrepreneur or small business and need website help? Contact me and tell me about your project today!”
Websites with tools
There are several websites that have quick, easy-to-use tools to find this information. Try the meta tag analyzer on smallseotools.com.
I like that the tool gives a target range for the number of characters. My current meta description is 152 characters, greater than 80 and less than 160. The target number is always changing (as SEO does!).
If you’re using the Yoast plugin on your WordPress site, you can find your meta description below your post.
How do I write a meta description?
Follow these quick guidelines:
- Write close to 160 characters
- Use words that describe what the page is about
- Write so that the reader wants to click through
- Include a call to action
- Have a unique description for each page
Remember you want your description to be short and sweet, descriptive and enticing.
In my meta description, I tried to cover what I did, where I was, who I could help and gave a call to action.
To preview what your meta description will look like (and get a little bit of guidance), try this free tool from Kayak.
How do I add or change meta descriptions?
Go to the Yoast panel near the bottom of the page. Click the Edit snippet button and add or change the meta description.
Yoast gives a handy orange, green or red bar directly below the meta description box to alert you if your description is too short, too long or just right.
Also, if you’re using a framework like Genesis, there may be built-in SEO options, so you won’t need an additional plugin.
Crafting and adding meta descriptions doesn’t have to be difficult and can make a big impact. Give it a try and give me a shout if you have questions!