If you’re confused about how to write your meta descriptions, you’re not the only one. To help remove that confusion, I’m going to dig into what makes a great meta description and share 16 killer meta description examples.
You’ll also learn why your site’s meta descriptions are so important, as well as the best meta description length (especially taking into account Google’s changing policies).
What is a meta description?
A meta description is an HTML element that contains a short summary of your page and generates the brief snippet you see underneath a site’s title in Google’s organic search results. Here’s an example of what it usually looks like:
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Why is your content’s meta description important?
Back in September 2009, Google announced that the text in meta descriptions and meta keywords doesn’t factor into its ranking algorithms for search.
But meta descriptions are still important for two reasons:
- They help convince people to click on your result in the organic listings.
- Because Google measures CTR rate, they might indirectly improve your rankings by boosting your site’s organic CTR.
What is the optimal meta description length?
When Google increased the meta description character limit to 320 back in December 2017, SEOs got a little too excited and started re-writing meta descriptions for their sites. So it’s no surprise many started freaking out in May 2018 when Google unexpectedly dropped the meta description length back to 160 characters.
The fact is, Google has never explicitly stated what the meta description length should be, even when they’ve made sweeping changes to search pages. In fact, Google’s public liaison of search, Danny Sullivan, advised against rewriting descriptions.
As Google Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller pointed out on Twitter, search is in a constant state of flux – and SEOs are along for the ride:
May’s drop back of meta description character limit to 160 prompted a flood of frustration on Twitter from people who just want clear guidelines from Google around how long to write meta descriptions. But as Sullivan pointed out, the search giant doesn’t want people to focus on character count – they want site owners to focus on delivering what works for visitors.
In other words, Google wants authentic, quality content in search. You don’t need to read between the lines to understand that Google wants people to focus on improving the quality of their content instead of tweaking SEO meta description examples to lure visitors to their sites.
Heads up: Google doesn’t always use meta descriptions
It’s important to know that Google won’t always display your descriptions as intended. In fact, according to a Moz analysis, only 35.9% of original meta description tags are displayed “as is” in Google search.
The Moz study, which examined 70,059 original meta description examples, also discovered that:
- In 15.4% of cases, Google used the original meta description tag but added some text.
- In 51.3% of cases, the display snippet perfectly matched the meta description tag or fully contained it.
- In 3.2% of cases, the display snippet used a truncated version of the meta description tag with an ellipsis on the end.
In total, Google used all or part of the original meta description tag in 55% of cases.
So what’s going on here? Basically, Google may choose to overrule the meta description HTML of your web pages if they don’t adequately answer a user’s query, instead, using a snippet from your page that provides a better match for the query.
Or… Google might just use your existing meta description. It really depends on what the user has entered in search.
How to write a good meta description
To write 160 characters or not to write 160 characters? That is the question.
My advice? Given that a tweaked for SEO meta description does not help your site rank higher in the SERPs, feel free to use 160 characters for your meta descriptions, but don’t obsess over it.
For example, if your description is 161 characters, don’t waste time trimming it. Instead, focus on these tips:
- Stick to your brand voice and tone, but also keep it conversational.
- Include your primary keyword if you can do so naturally, to tick the minimum of requirements for an SEO meta description.
- Make sure you convey value to the reader.
- Include a call-to-action, i.e. “Learn more here.”
- Write in active voice.
- Make sure your descriptions match your content – don’t trick the user into clicking your link.
- Keep in mind that meta descriptions might be truncated when displayed in search, so use the first 120 character to communicate your most important message.
- Ensure every page on your site has a unique meta description – don’t use the same description on several pages.
Once you have your text figured out, you can set the meta description in WordPress by following this guide.
16 great meta description examples to inspire you
Since you only have 160 characters to work with, writing a great meta description takes more than just throwing a few words together. To help you get your creative juices flowing, here are some meta description examples for your inspiration.
Why it works: In just 22 words, Tesla’s description conveys what the company represents, what it produces, its brand values, and ambitions. Now, that’s great copywriting.
2. Lonely Planet
Why it works: Well, do you love travel? Starting with a question draws readers in, making the description personal. It goes on to explain exactly how Lonely Planet helps travelers, all within the 160 character count.
Why it works: This 148-character description leaves no room for confusion about what you are going to find on the Fitbit blog. The company goes with the pure informative approach – nothing clickbaity or pushy. There’s also a call to action inviting people to follow Fitbit’s content.
Why it works: reddit not only includes its company mantra – the best of the internet – in its description, but also provides a clear explanation of what it provides, along with the word “you” at the end for an added personal touch.
Why it works: For this article meta description, Wired teases readers, describing reddit as a former “dystopian Craigslist,” before going on to say it has grown up. Intrigued? Try not to click through, I dare you.
6. Travel Yosemite
Why it works: Brief and straight to the point, this meta description clearly explains the value of the Travel Yosemite site and what visitors can expect when they click the link.
Why it works: While the meta title is cut, this meta description examples perfectly fits the recommended character count, teasing visitors with a fun fact from the article.
Why it works: This meta description is LinkedIn’s standard paragraph for all LinkedIn business pages, simply swapping out the company name. The first sentence clearly explains the page’s value while the rest of the description provides a call-to-action for LinkedIn.
9. The Verge
Why it works: Explaining a complex new story can be tough when you only have 160 characters to work with. But The Verge nails it with this succinct and descriptive tag.
Why it works: Okay, disclaimer – I wrote this meta description for one of my clients. I’m going to toot my own horn and say this description is friendly – perfectly matching Typenest’s brand values – but also compelling. I mean, who wouldn’t want to click through to find out more?
Why it works: Straightforward, descriptive, and no-nonsense, Semplice’s meta description tells you exactly what you’ll get when you click through.
12. Bendigo Bank
Why it works: Bendigo Bank embraces its brand identify, reaffirming its ethos and values while also telling visitors why they’re different from other banks.
Why it works: It’s hard not to crack a smile when you read Frito-Lay’s description. It’s short, sweet, and creative, telling visitors they’re in for something fun if they click through.
14. Taco Bell
Why it works: Emotion sells, and Taco Bell nails all the feels in its meta description. Plus, it includes a simple call-to-action, using visitors to click through for offers and even order food now.
Why it works: For a company that is basically a taxi service, Uber manages to slip in some aspirational words, explain what it offers to drivers, and what it offers to riders, all in 160 characters.
16. Hunting for George
Why it works: With the end of the financial year fast approaching in Australia, Hunting for George has done the smart thing and updated its meta description accordingly. The emojis as a nice touch and are eye-catching in search results.
Meta descriptions might not directly contribute to how Google ranks your web pages, but they certainly do help entice people to click your links. So nailing your meta descriptions should still be a priority when optimizing the SEO for your site. And when you can, try and stick to the 160 character limit.
But that’s not to say you should be spending all your time optimizing meta description. What Google really wants is for you to spend more time coming up with clever, quality content. So as long as your content is useful for users and contains information that matches search queries, your pages will rank well in search.
Have a question about how to write great meta descriptions? Know any other great meta description examples? Leave a comment below!
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