The Importance of the Meta Description

Posted in Search Engine Optimization by John Learn on 21 December 2018

When you're putting together a blog post, you may (or may not) have noticed a field next to the content box called "Meta Description". You may have ignored it, given the fairly obvious notice that it doesn't affect search engine rankings:

Screen Shot 2018 12 21 at 1 v2.06.07 PM

It's worth giving it a few moments of thought when you're putting together a blog post, however. While it's true that it doesn't impact rankings, it does have a huge effect on whether or not a searcher clicks on that link to your site or not — and isn't that really the whole point?

Whither the Meta Description?

The meta description is included in your web pages in an invisible element called a meta-tag. Meta-Tags provide additional information about the web page — not to visitors, but to non-human services that scan the page. These include search engines, social media platforms, RSS aggregators and more.

It shows up most noticeably as the descriptive text that appears beneath the link in search results:

Screen Shot 2018 12 21 at 1.23.38 PM

You may have noticed, even if you don't add a meta description, Google will put something there — usually the first sentence or paragraph. So why bother customizing it?

Why would you write a meta description?

Google sometimes makes a mess of It.

If you have a lot of things going on on your page, Google may get confused and put something less than useful there. It may accidentally pull out the post date, an author byline, or sidebar content. By explicitly providing a meta description, you control exactly what it's going to look like. That makes you look professional.

Sometimes the first paragraph doesn't give sufficient context.

Oftentimes, the first paragraph in your post will lead readers in, but doesn't provide sufficient context to really describe what the post is about. Remember, when looking at a search result, searchers don't have the extra contextual information — images, site header, pull-out quotes, etc. — that visitors on your site have to assist their comprehension. With the meta description, you have the opportunity to provide a complete summary.

It takes ten seconds!

It doesn't have to be a masterpiece — you only have about 150 characters to work with before google chops it off! If you can write a complete sentence, you can do this.

Thanks for reading. I hope you found this a little bit useful. If you have questions on writing effective meta descriptions, please feel free to write me at [email protected].