Why are metadata descriptions important?

Why are metadata descriptions important?

Why are metadata descriptions important?

You've seen the meta description box on the metadata tab in Squiz when you're editing your web page. Most times, you're in a hurry and you just leave it blank. But here's why it's important to pay attention to this little box, and take the time to write a metadata description for your web page.

Squiz matrix metadata screen

A meta description describes and summarises the contents of your page for the benefit of users and search engines. While metadata isn't as important for search engine optimisation (SEO) rankings as it used to be, the meta description still plays a significant role in on-page SEO.

What is a meta description?

A meta description is an attribute within your meta tags that helps describe your page. This snippet of text may appear in the search engine results under your headline, though sometimes, search engines will pull a snippet of text from the main body copy of the page instead.

This information has a few purposes, one of which is to serve as the snippet of text on the search engine results page (SERP) when searchers perform a search query that your page ranks for. The meta description should give search engine users a brief description of what they'll find if they click through to your site.

So a search for "Macquarie University Science and Engineering" on Google might elicit a SERP listing like the following:

screenshot of search page result listing for Macquarie University Science and Engineering

How long should the meta description be?

As of October 2019, a meta description should be between 120-158 characters. If it's any longer than this, it will be cut off on the search engine results page.

Why do meta descriptions matter?

Meta description tags can have a significant impact on your search engine optimisation efforts. The meta description has one central value:

Your meta description acts as "organic ad text."

What this means is that when your ad ranks for a keyword, Google and other engines will often show the meta description as a summary of the page.

This makes the meta description as important as ad text.

A compelling meta description has the power to raise the click-through rate of your organic search results. That means more of the people who see your page in the search results will actually click through and land on your site. That means more traffic for you, even if your ranking stays the same!

How can I write better meta descriptions?

The best practices for creating good meta descriptions are a lot like those for writing great ad text:

  • Use researched, targeted keywords in your meta descriptions.
  • Make sure they're hyper-relevant to the content on each page; never use the same meta description across your whole site.
  • Communicate benefits and urgency.
  • Compel users to click to showing them value and appealing to emotion.

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