A Meta description is basically a short paragraph of text which summarises the topic of a page. Search engines may use this as the little snippet of text that you see below the blue text on a page of search results.
What does a Meta description do?
Honestly, not loads! But it does one or two important things that mean that you should keep a close eye on it. A Meta description can appear in search engine results pages which are seen by users, so you should think of the description as a mini advert for your website. It can help you entice someone to click on your result rather than someone else’s.
It can also be used by social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn so if one of your pages is shared, they may use the Meta description to give users an idea of what your page is about.
How to write a good Meta description
A good Meta description should briefly (ideally less than 160 characters) describe the topic of a page, maybe include a keyword or two, sprinkled with some USPs about your company or product. Lots of ecommerce websites will mention things like free delivery or guarantees in the meta description to help them stand out.
What if I don’t write a meta description?
Some content management systems will generate one for you automatically but there are also lots that won’t. If you have a blank meta description on a page, then Google and other search engines will take a snippet of text from your on-page content and use that instead.
This isn’t the end of the world, it’s just not quite as optimal and less within your control.
Is a Meta description a ranking signal?
Yes, but no. Kinda, not really. It depends.
Google have openly said in the past that meta descriptions themselves are not a ranking signal, meaning that including keywords in them won’t affect your rankings for those keywords. SEO isn’t that easy, is it…
However, given that potential customers can often see your meta description in search results, they can play a part in enticing users to click on your result rather than someone else’s. So whilst they may not be a direct ranking signal, they can play a part in driving traffic to you.
This is why it’s important to monitor your meta descriptions and to know if someone accidentally changes them and takes away your hard work.