How The Meta Description Contributes To Your On Page SEO
The term on page SEO covers optimisation of both the text and other content your viewers will see on their screens, and the HTML source code that lies behind it. The reason for implementing ‘SEO on page‘ is to ensure that search engines like Google can easily identify what each page is all about, so that they can properly read, index and rank it.
A page that’s ranked highly by the search engines will appear higher in the results pages when users search for a particular term, which in turn makes it more likely that it will attract attention from prospective customers. So optimising your pages ultimately generates more organic, relevant traffic to your website.
The Importance Of The Meta Description
There are many important on page SEO factors, but one of the more valuable ones is the meta description. If you carry out any search on Google, for instance, the results pages will show the page title, its URL and the meta description for each relevant site.
The title and URL are both useful elements to optimise. But it’s the meta description that gives you the best chances of explaining to a user what your page is all about; because here, you have two lines of text to fill with your own words.
Google states that meta descriptions don’t, by themselves, improve a page’s rankings. However, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that they are beneficial as an indirect signal. As suggested, a good meta description is crucial for SEO onpage because it can make a website seem more appealing to visitors. This can lead to an increase in click-through rates, which in turn improves the website’s traffic. A well-optimised meta description not only attracts click-throughs and traffic to your website, it is also able to contribute positively to conversions to sales if it’s geared towards what your target audience is searching for.
And according to some experts, increases in CTRs and traffic to your website can be a factor in Google’s assessment of your website. So whether you’re interested in increasing traffic, generating more sales or just raising the visibility of your website in the search engine results, it’s well worth spending time optimising your meta description for each of your pages as part of your on page content SEO strategy.
One common misconception is that SERP snippets and meta descriptions are one and the same. The search snippets are the descriptions that Google shows for your website, which is controlled entirely by the search engine. They may take your own description and display that, but they’re just as likely to show some other text entirely. Meta descriptions, on the other hand, are SEO links on page: HTML tags that you can create and optimise by yourself. So make the most of them!
Does Google Change Meta Descriptions?
Having said all that, though, a study carried out in 2020 found that meta descriptions written by local SEO agencies and other website owners when optimizing web page content are altered by Google in around 70 per cent of cases. This is especially true for a website that currently ranks on the first page of Google search results.
The likelihood of Google amending a particular meta description also varied depending on whether it was displayed on a desktop or a mobile site. The research showed that 68% of meta descriptions on desktops were rewritten, while those on mobile were rewritten at a rate of 71%.
This means that overall, the original meta description of a webpage will only be used by Google around 30 per cent of the time.
The study examined the search results for 30,000 keywords and to a large extent, focused on the first page of Google’s organic search results, without the featured snippets.
The researchers noticed that most of the rewritten meta descriptions came from pages that ranked in the positions from fourth to sixth. One reason suggested by the researchers for this was that those ranked from positions one to three already received the most click-through rates, and Google was looking to boost the relevance of pages in the 4 to 6 positions to encourage readers to stay on the results page rather than moving on to a different website.
The relationship between search volume and the rewrite rate was also examined. According to the study’s findings, if the search volume is higher, Google is unlikely to change the meta description. This might mean that a lot of SEO agencies are focusing more on creating meta descriptions for keywords that attract the most searches every month as part of their SEO techniques on page.
As well as rewriting meta descriptions, Google will also decide how many characters show as the meta description based on the device that’s being used to view the search results page.
If the user views search results on a desktop computer, the number of characters displayed will be 156 at the highest, then suddenly drop if there are more than 165. If there is a date included in the snippet, that figure can be further reduced to 142 characters.
If Google itself changes the meta description, then it will display around 160 to 167 characters. If the meta includes a date, then the search engine will show a meta description that is approximately 147 to 149 characters.
However, as might be expected, fewer characters show on a smartphone. The number of characters for snippets that don’t include dates can reach only as high as 118, and then drop after 121 characters. If the meta description includes a publication date, then Google will only show between 95 to 105 characters.
But if Google rewrites the meta description, it will show around 114 to 121 characters on mobile and 99 to 105 characters if there’s a date included.
The findings of this study should be significant for local SEO agencies and other website owners dealing with on page optimisation, to help them to write meta descriptions even more efficiently than before. No matter how infrequently Google uses the original meta descriptions, it is still important to devote time and effort to writing them.
It also means you should pay close attention to the guide on word count when crafting meta descriptions. Aim to limit them to something between 150 and 160 characters, especially if you’re writing a meta description for standard on-page contents. If you’re posting a blog or a news page, say, with a publication date included, then limit your meta description to between 138 to 148 characters.
And as well as limiting the character count, you should also make sure you position the most important details within the first 100 characters of the meta description.
What About Duplicate Meta Descriptions?
Any search engine optimisation expert who understands the importance of on page SEO and is up-to-date with the latest SEO trends will know that there’s a report in the Google Search Console which essentially shows whether you have duplicate meta descriptions across your web pages. This is referred to as the HTML improvements report. That checklist also documents any potential issues that may arise from having meta descriptions which aren’t unique from each other. The most important question here is whether duplicate meta descriptions are a significant problem or not.
In 2018, John Mueller, Senior Web Trends Analyst at Google, answered this question on Twitter. He said that a duplicate meta description isn’t really a problem in terms of being ranked in the search engine results. However, as might be inferred from the above information on the value of meta descriptions, as SEO experts here at Position1SEO, we would argue that it’s a missed opportunity!
If you have two pages with completely different content, having the same meta description for both is only likely to cause confusion among your website viewers. They’ll find it hard to differentiate between the two and click on one that’s less relevant to their needs, for instance. Multiple duplicate meta descriptions are likely to lead to a lower click-through rate, and that’s something that really can affect your search engine ranking!
A First-Rate SEO Agency Delivering The Best In On Page SEO
Here at Position1SEO, one of our services includes evaluating your website as a whole. We look at technical, on-page and off-page SEO to identify and target areas where you’re missing a trick or could get better results in future.
Just one of the many areas we routinely address as part of our overall strategy is meta descriptions. We craft unique meta descriptions for each of your pages that perfectly describe and summarise each page’s content. With a compelling meta description, you will attract more readers and persuade them to click your links, driving more relevant traffic to your website.
Not only that, but we can also provide informative content that’s relevant to your business, engaging your website users and eventually converting them into paying customers.
If you’d like us to work on your on-site SEO, or on any other aspect of your marketing and search engine optimisation strategy, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us via 0141 404 7515. Start boosting your website’s rankings today!