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What is a meta description and how do you use it for SEO?

Updated May 24, 2023

Author: Chima Mmeje

What Is a Meta Description and How to Use It to Improve SEO?

While meta descriptions aren't search ranking factors, they are an on-page SEO element that can entice clicks that generate more organic traffic for your website. In fact, an Ignite Visibility study found that meta descriptions had the largest influence on whether visitors would click through on a search result.


So, how do you create a great meta description that is readable, compelling, and optimized for search?


In this guide, we cover:


What are meta descriptions?


A meta description is an HTML element that summarizes and describes the content of a page to help users and search engines understand it better. The meta description snippet contains approximately 160 characters on desktop and around 125 characters on mobile.


The goal of a meta description is to get a user to click through to your page, where you will have more opportunities to market to them and help them along their customer journey.


Where are meta descriptions used?


In the search engine results page (SERP), you’ll find the meta description below the headline. For pages with multiple keywords ranking within a SERP, Google may pick a snippet that contains the search query to tell visitors what the page is about before they click on it.

Let’s look at what comes up when we search “Wix” on Google.



meta description example
An example of a meta description in Google search results.

meta description
An example meta description where Google selected a snippet that contains part of the keyword.

In both instances, notice that Google shows the keyword in bold in the meta description. That’s because Wix used the keyword it wanted to rank for in the meta description as a way to show relevance and encourage searchers to click on the result.


Using meta descriptions as part of your SEO



A well-written meta description can mean the difference between a searcher visiting your page and potentially becoming your customer, or selecting one of your competitor's pages instead. Here are seven best practices that can help you write more effective meta descriptions:


01. Think optimal meta description length

While a meta description can be any length, Google shortens snippets to around 120–160 characters, depending on the type of device (desktop or mobile) visitors are using to view your site. You want to keep it short and punchy to have the most impact.


However, your goal should not be to write for the sake of character count but to provide value and encourage click-throughs. Obsessing over character count defeats the goal of creating content for your potential visitors.


A Semrush experiment found that meta descriptions that exceeded the character count actually performed better and ranked higher, with a 36% increase in click-through rate (CTR). However, some pages will have shorter descriptions while others will be longer, and that’s okay.


You should also note that Google won’t always show your meta description in the search results. Sometimes, it will grab words from your content that relate to the user’s search, instead.


02. Use the active voice

No one wants to read a dull description because it doesn’t drive action. Writing in the active voice makes your copy more interesting and engaging.


A screenshot of a meta description for thespicesuite.com that reads “see our pop up shop schedule or request to have your own pop up.”

Think of your meta description as a piece of ad copy—you’re drawing the reader from a search result page to your website. Your meta description should be compelling, readable, and active. Directly address the need the user has and make a promise to solve it.


03. Avoid duplicates

Thinking of writing one meta description and pasting it across all your web pages? Don’t do it! While Google has sent mixed messages about this, there is agreement among SEO professionals that unique descriptions are more effective.


If you have a lot of pages, focus on writing meta descriptions for your most critical URLs, such as popular pages, best-selling product pages, and your homepage.


If you’re not sure which pages perform best or have the highest ranking, you can refer to Google Search Console and Google Analytics. For the less important pages, you’re better off leaving it blank and allowing Google to generate a snippet from the page containing the search query.


04. Use the primary keyword

Even though meta descriptions don’t impact rankings, it's still important to add them because they tell Google and the reader what your page is about.


The Google search results for “skateboard events” showing a search listing for skateboardgb.org, with a meta description that reads “find a full list of skateboard events in the UK, including skateboarding street events, skate james, vert events and skateboarding competitions.”
Cap: An example meta description with a clear primary keyword.

Although an Ahrefs study showed that Google rewrites meta descriptions 62.78% of the time, it still makes sense to write a description that will speak to your audience.


05. Add a CTA

Make your meta description work harder for you with a call to action. It’s a great way to get the reader to take action and increase your click-through rate.

An example meta description with a CTA.
An example meta description with a CTA.

Notice how Wix introduces the offer to “get started today” in the meta description? Other examples to explore include “Try for free,” “Learn more,” and “Download now.”


06. Include your value proposition

Using the same example from above, can you tell Wix’s value proposition from the meta description? Wix makes it easy to build a website in six simple steps.


The meta description for dayful.com, which reads “better manage your business with dayful. Streamline your schedule, take bookings on any channel, accept secure payments and send automatic reminders.”
Example of meta description with value propositions.

You can sign up for a free website, customize templates, drag and drop hundreds of design features and drive traffic to your site.


When writing meta descriptions for your product pages, think of how you can convey specific details that show the benefit of your product.


07. Match your meta description to your page content

Don’t write meta descriptions just to drive visitors to a page. Clickbait is not only annoying and unprofessional, it can also make you lose potential customers.


While it could increase CTR, you’ll likely experience a spike in bounce rate, and the visitors that bounce are not likely to return to your site because you’ve lost their trust.


A screenshot of a meta description for generationshe.co which is consistent with the on-page copy for that page.

How to update meta descriptions on Wix


Use the SEO Setup Checklist

The Wix SEO Setup Checklist analyzes your website’s content together with your chosen keywords and gives you suggestions to create relevant and unique meta descriptions for each page.


The Wix SEO Setup checklist meta description field

Main Page settings

You can also set the description from your Wix site editor. Open the editor, then navigate to Pages in the left-hand navigation bar.


how to add a meta description in Wix

From there, select the desired page and click the “Show More” icon (the three dots within the circle, next to the page's name). Select SEO Basics from the menu and, under the section that says “What’s the page’s meta description?,” add your description.


Customize meta descriptions at scale with Wix SEO settings

Wix SEO tools allow you to customize SEO settings for a particular type of page all at once, rather than editing every individual page. This comes in handy when you have dozens (or hundreds) of blogs, product pages, or other content that you need to optimize.


The Wix SEO Settings page for blog posts, showing fields to templatize meta descriptions and title tags for all blog posts.

For example, you can create a template for all your product pages and the meta description will generate according to the specific product that is being viewed.


You can use this feature to template meta descriptions for your:

  • Site pages

  • Blog posts

  • Product pages

  • Event pages

  • Pro Gallery

  • Forum posts

  • Bookings

  • Group pages

To customize your meta descriptions this way, head over to your site’s dashboard, select Marketing & SEO - SEO Tools and choose SEO Settings. Select the page type you'd like to add meta descriptions to and click SEO basics & social share.


To undo changes or revert back to the default SEO settings, delete the content in the meta description field and press Save.


Note that changing your settings for a page type will affect all the pages that you haven’t already customized SEO settings for.


Meta Descriptions in Wix Apps


Many Wix apps, such as Wix Stores and Wix Events, automatically tag meta descriptions based on the information you’ve entered on the app. Here are a few ways to update a page description when using Wix Stores and Wix Bookings.


Wix Stores

By default, Wix adds default meta tags to each of your store’s products based on details you’ve entered, such as name, description, and price. You can edit meta descriptions in Wix Stores using the same page settings mentioned above, or via the Edit-by-Page feature.


The Wix SEO Settings page for product pages, showing a panel to edit the meta description for a page.

Wix Bookings


To change your page description in Wix Bookings, navigate to Pages in the Wix site editor's left-hand navigation menu. Select the relevant page and click the Show More icon. Click SEO Basics and add a description under What’s the page’s meta description? Add a description.

 

Chima Mmeje

Chima Mmeje is a content marketer and strategist at Moz, where she positions the company as the authoritative source of truth in the SEO industry. She's also the founder of The Freelance Coalition for Developing Countries, a UK nonprofit providing free resources and training for marketers of color. Twitter | Linkedin





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