Meta Description

Meta descriptions play a crucial role in search engine optimization (SEO) and influencing user click-through rates on search results. Google has highlighted key examples of both bad and better meta descriptions to guide website owners in creating high-quality snippets that accurately represent their pages. Let’s explore the best practices and examples for crafting effective meta descriptions.

In the vast world of search engine optimization (SEO), meta descriptions have long been a topic of interest for website owners and digital marketers. These short snippets play a crucial role in providing users with a glimpse of what to expect from a web page when it appears in search results. As the leading search engine, Google places great importance on meta descriptions and advises website owners to use unique and informative descriptions for their pages. However, there has been an ongoing debate about whether meta descriptions directly influence search rankings. To shed light on this matter, let’s delve into insights provided by Google’s John Mueller, one of the prominent voices in the SEO community.

A robot readin about the meta description in a book

Understanding the Meta Element and Meta Description:

The meta element, formally known as the meta tag, serves as a means to provide document-level information about a web page. Different attributes of the meta element extend its functionality, allowing it to communicate with web browsers and web crawlers, including Googlebot. Various meta tags are used to convey specific information to search engines and browsers, enhancing the overall user experience. Among these meta tags is the meta description, which, according to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), is designed explicitly for search engines.

Google’s Recommendations on Meta Descriptions:

Google’s documentation emphasizes that meta descriptions are instrumental in generating search result snippets. When crafted effectively, the meta description displayed in search results communicates to potential visitors what the page is about and gives them an idea of what to expect upon clicking the link. There is no fixed length limit for meta descriptions; however, search engines will choose to display only a portion that fits the user’s browser device. Google’s SEO Starter Guide further stresses the importance of using the meta description as a summary of the page’s content, aligned with the W3C’s official standards.

The Role of Meta Descriptions in Ranking:

The question of whether meta descriptions directly impact search rankings, particularly in the context of adding location name information, was addressed by Google’s John Mueller. According to him, meta descriptions primarily serve as snippets in search results and are not a direct ranking factor. Instead, having a well-crafted snippet can make a page more enticing for users, leading to increased click-through rates when it appears in search results.

Meta Description and SEO:

Understanding HTML meta elements, including the meta description tag, is essential in comprehending how all the pieces fit together in the realm of SEO. By optimizing meta descriptions to be descriptive, engaging, and aligned with the page’s content, website owners can improve their chances of attracting relevant visitors to their sites. While meta descriptions might not directly influence search rankings, their impact on click-through rates can indirectly contribute to better overall performance in search results.

Bad Meta Description Examples:

  1. List of Keywords: Google discourages using meta descriptions that list keywords without providing any meaningful summary of the page’s content.
  2. Same Description for Every News Article: Avoid using templated meta descriptions that remain the same for different web documents. Each page deserves a unique and relevant description.
  3. Doesn’t Summarize the Page: It’s a common mistake to focus solely on keyword phrases and topics while forgetting to summarize the entire webpage’s content.
  4. Too Short: Meta descriptions that are excessively brief fail to provide adequate information about the page’s content, which hinders optimization efforts.

Examples of Better Meta Descriptions:

  1. Describe the Business, Not the Webpage: For brick-and-mortar businesses, an effective meta description can describe what the business offers, its location, and operating hours, providing valuable information to users.
  2. Use Webpage Content: A good meta description for a news article can be a snippet taken directly from the article itself. This approach ensures a concise content summary, especially when the first sentence is used.
  3. Summarize the Webpage: Summarizing the entire webpage in the meta description is an excellent practice, as it accurately reflects what users can expect to find on the page.
  4. Be Specific and Detailed: For product pages, focus on the product’s specific sales details. This can include features, benefits, pricing, and any special offers.

Best Practices for Meta Description:

Google’s guidelines for crafting quality meta descriptions are consistent with previous articles on the topic. To ensure your meta descriptions are effective, consider the following best practices:

  1. Create Unique Descriptions for Each Page: Avoid using identical or similar meta descriptions for every page. Instead, craft specific and accurate descriptions for each individual page on your site.
  2. Include Relevant Information in the Description: Utilize the meta description to provide additional information about the page’s content. This can include author names, publication dates, product details, or any other pertinent information.
  3. Programmatically Generate Descriptions: Programmatic generation of meta descriptions is acceptable for larger database-driven sites where manual creation is challenging. Ensure the generated descriptions are human-readable and diverse.
  4. Use Quality Descriptions: Craft descriptive and compelling meta descriptions that encourage users to click on your search result. Avoid keyword stuffing and focus on providing valuable information.

Examples of Improved Meta Descriptions:


“Sewing supplies, yarn, colored pencils, sewing machines, threads, bobbins, needles”


“Get everything you need to sew your next garment. Open Monday-Friday 8-5 pm, located in the Fashion District.”


“Local news in Whoville, delivered to your doorstep. Find out what happened today.”


“Upsetting the small town of Whoville, a local elderly man steals everyone’s presents the night before an important event. Stay tuned for live updates on the matter.”


“Eggs are a source of joy in everyone’s life. When I was a small child, I remember picking eggs from the hen house and bringing them to the kitchen. Those were the days.”


“Learn how to cook eggs with this complete guide in 1 hour or less. We cover all the methods, including over-easy, sunny side up, boiled, and poached.”


“Mechanical pencil”


“Learn how to cook eggs with this complete guide in 1 hour or less. We cover all the methods, including over-easy, sunny side up, boiled, and poached.”

Adhering to these best practices and incorporating Google’s recommended examples can enhance your website’s visibility, user experience, and search traffic. Effective meta descriptions provide valuable information to users and increase the likelihood of attracting relevant visitors to your site.

Does The Meta Description Matter for Rankings?

Watch John Mueller answer this question about adding the location in the Description in this video:

Google primarily uses the meta description as a snippet in search results, not as a ranking factor. It aims to provide concise summaries that entice users to click on the link, enhancing the user experience. Crafting engaging meta descriptions is essential for driving click-through rates and attracting relevant traffic to a website.