- Are the metadata ranking relevant?
- The optimal meta description
- Meta description for mobile search results
- Special NOODP
- Meta Description in the Searchmetrics Suite
A meta description is one of the so-called meta tags of a website. With this meta-specification, webmasters can summarize the content of a website. The page description stored for a website is typically displayed when a page for a specific search term is listed as a snippet in the search results.
A long time ago a keyword in meta description was one of the ranking factors in SEO. Today the description content plays a role in snippet optimization and, if executed well, can increase traffic and CTR (click-through rate), because ideally it encourages the user to click on the search result.
When metadata with keywords were still relevant for rankings
The criteria that search engines use to rank a website are becoming more differentiated and complex. At the beginning of internet search, that is, in the early 2000s, the website meta tags were mainly used for ranking. One of the most important elements of website optimization was the meta description. It can be "stuffed" with relevant keywords, comparable to the page title or the content itself.
Relatively late, in 2009, Google made it clear that both meta keywords and meta description no longer had a decisive influence on rankings. Because the massive use of keywords during the early years of SEO has created less and less added value for users in favor of manipulation, in short - spam.
If some "search engine optimizers" still refer to meta description optimization as a ranking criteria for their services, this is simply wrong.
What is the other SEO benefit of meta descriptions?
Even if today's SERPs are constantly replenished with the rich snippets, meta description loses little of its importance as the first point of contact for potential visitors. Because, apart from the page title and the target URL, this is what users see first on the website when they enter a search term in the web search. Therefore, the construction of the meta description should not be arbitrary. A well-formulated page description can prompt you to click, even if the page in question is not top ranked on Google.
The meta description is the first figurehead that a website can display about the organic search results. It can significantly affect the click-through rates as well as the traffic.
Since the CTR is obviously used by Google, among other things, to measure a webpage's relevance in the SERPs, the meta description can be viewed as an indirect ranking factor.
What does the optimal meta description look like?
For a long time, the optimal description text length was about 160 characters, including spaces. Since Google abandoned the ad unit on the right side of the search results in spring of 2016, theoretically there is more space for the organic hit snippets.
Since then, the possible length of the meta description is about 175 characters. But since Google does not use all the space on every page of search results, it is still recommended to stick to 160 characters, including spaces, so that the description is not canceled.
However, the indication of the number of characters is approximate. Because Google and other search engines do not actually measure the characters, but the pixel length of the stored meta tag.
If the description is longer, it will be shortened with "...", and canceled accordingly. Similar to a tweet, all important information about the landing page should be placed in this restricted space. The user must be aware of it and encouraged to click.
6 tips for optimizing the meta description
- Better short than long: It is also often advisable to use two or three short sentences rather than one long sentence. The user searches for concise statements in the SERPs, and this is how the perfect meta description should look like.
- Call to action: The description should always contain a call to action. Thus, users are encouraged to click on the result.
- Topic: The topic of the landing page should be brief and clear. So that the user knows what to expect.
- Keyword: It is recommended to use the central keyword of the landing page in the description. If it matches the search term, Google will automatically add it to the snippet. This will get even more attention.
- Uniqueness: Each description, like the page title, should be unique. If the plugin is used to automatically generate descriptions, this requirement should be taken into account.
- Special characters: Using HTML codes, you can insert special characters such as check marks, hearts or other symbols into your description. This can also be used to highlight the snippet. However, these signs should not be overused. Otherwise, the snippet may seem very dubious and therefore fail to fulfill its call-to-action function.
Important: If Google itself does not consider the existing meta description to be meaningful in relation to the search query, it may happen that the search engine compiles its own description from existing sentences. If you want to prevent this, you should make an effort to write the meta description to adequately reflect the content of the landing page.
By the way, it is also possible to store several descriptions for the website. However, it is doubtful if this is really worth the effort for SEO purposes.
How long should the meta description be for mobile search results
There is less space in mobile search results on smartphones due to the smaller display size. If you only want to align your meta content description to the mobile SERPs, you should limit the text to a maximum of 120 characters. This can prevent the description from breaking off.
However, you can see Google changing the content of descriptions in mobile search results over and over again. On the one hand, descriptions with more than 200 characters are possible. On the other hand, images can also appear in the snippets, which significantly limits the number of characters used.
Special case NOODP - today a relic
A SEO relic is the so-called NOODP tag. This allows webmasters to specify in the meta information on the website that the description from the DMOZ directory is not used to display the meta description in the snippets.
Background: When Google and other search engines were nowhere near as busy or as efficient as they are today, much of the information available on the Internet was based on so-called web directories. The largest and most independent of its kind to this day remains DMOZ. For search engines, primarily Google, the website description stored there was a valid information, which was then used directly for the search snippet instead of the meta description, if it was not stored.
If you want to exclude the use of a page description from the moderated DMOZ directory for the snippet today, you can mark it in the source code as follows:
Meta description in the Searchmetrics Suite
The Content Editor in the Content Experience directly supports the creation and editing of meta descriptions that check the character limit.
All meta descriptions of crawled URLs can be analyzed in the Content/Descriptions section of the Site Experience. In addition to the potential that exists due to too long or too short descriptions, risks can be quickly identified and then eliminated. Risks that can cause problems are duplication, missing, too long or short descriptions. The URLs with these problems are listed in detail in the table at the bottom of the page, so they can be answered quickly.