Home/SEO Guide/On-page/Meta description tag: the ultimate guide to optimizing it for your SEO

In the previous article, we helped you optimize the title tag. Now we will help you optimize the meta description tag.

Contents

The meta description tag in a nutshell!

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The meta description tag definition

Definition: a meta description tag allows you to add a description of an indexed page in which you can insert keywords. This helps inform search engines as well as Internet users of the content of the page.

Here is an example of a meta description on a Google results page:

meta-description-tag-optimization

Why is the meta description tag important in SEO?

The meta description tag does not directly affect your SEO. However, it is essential, because it’s the tag that acts the most on the percentage of clicks you will get from the Google results page.

How to optimize the meta description tag for SEO?

The description tag must be placed after the "title" tag which corresponds to the document header, "/ head".

The 3 main criteria of the meta description tag to keep in mind are:

  • Keywords: Insert the main keywords for which your page is optimized, this will show the user that your page perfectly meets his request.
  • Size: Do not exceed 230 characters for the description otherwise Google will cut it off.

After investigations, Moz reported an increase in the length of the meta description with an average of 215 characters in search results in 2018. They also discovered the existence of meta descriptions of more than 350 characters.

  • The Attractiveness: The meta description is not only intended for search engines, but also for Internet users who will come to your website if the description is attractive and describes what they are looking for. Does Google understand if your site is attractive? No, but it understands what users click on. This is the famous "Click Through Rate" (CTR), whether people clicked on your link or not. So, you have to make them want to!

The meta description tag therefore corresponds to the text displayed below your URL. We can see on the image below that for example the 1st and the 4th links have made an effort so that we want to click on them, the size is perfect, and the texts contain the keywords "virgin olive oil Croatia"
On the contrary, we can see that the 3rd result make you less want to click, and it is also too long, Google has cut the meta descriptions with ‘...’.

meta-description-tag-cut

Useful recommendations

  • Make sure your page description matches your page title and content. When the engines find an incompatibility in the elements, they can penalize you.
  • In order to avoid being recognized as spam by search engines, use sentences with verbs, plus it will give meaning to your description.
  • Write this tag down as a well-constructed, well-spelled sentence with punctuation. It is important to reassure Internet users with clear expressions and without mistakes.
  • Create brand new and unique meta descriptions to improve your user experience.

How to set it up?

To create or modify the tag, all you have to do is go to the HTML code of your page and go to the tag that corresponds to the header of the HTML document.

markup-description-referencement-smartkeyword

But most of the time, if you are using a CMS (Content Management System), you just need to modify it in the graphical interface:

seo-meta-description-natural reference

Mistakes to avoid

In this section, we will discuss the techniques for detecting and correcting meta description tag errors.

The first step is to locate the meta description tags present in your site. During an audit, a crawler is used to locate all URLs and their tags.
It is also possible to use other means :

  • Using a seo plugin: it allows you to see the tag when you are on the page.
  • By consulting the source code of the page (right click > display the source code, then search “)

However, these 2 solutions have a significant drawback: they allow on-the-fly consultation on a page, and not a complete listing of the whole site.

Case 1: Missing tags

Let's analyze the pages that don't contain a meta description tag.

- If there is none: so much the better, there is nothing to do
- If there are any: locate the number and type of page(s) concerned:

  • If these are pages to be de-indexed (shopping cart, etc.), verify that they are de-indexed or proceed to de-index them.
  • - If these are low interest pages, like the T&Cs or the recruiting page, add a meta description for clarity, although this won't really impact your SEO.
  • - If these are pages supposed to bring SEO traffic: you must quickly add a meta description tag optimized according to SEO rules.

Case 2: Duplicate tags

Let's move on to the duplicate meta description tags. As a reminder, you should never have 2 duplicate meta description tags on your website, because it is either a sign of duplicate pages, or of several pages targeting a single keyword, which goes against the page and the site’s SEO strategy.

- If there is none: so much the better, there is nothing to do
- If there are any: locate the number and type of page(s) concerned:

  • If these are product pages with variants (color, size, etc.): we advise you to specify in the meta description the unique variant for this product. If there is no SEO interest in this variant (if nobody is looking for such a precise request) we even advise you to delete the page and redirect it to a single product page which concentrates all the "useless" variants in SEO. But it all depends on your technical / CMS architecture.
  • If these are paginated pages: we recommend that you change the meta description to read "page 2" / "page 3". More detail in this article.
  • - If these are pages that are supposed to be different: then just edit the meta description tags to be more specific. If you have “real estate agency + city” pages, specify the city and not just “real estate agency”.
  • - If these are duplicate pages, in other words, multiple existing URLs that display exactly the same content, then this is probably a technical issue that needs to be fixed. To do so, choose the one that is meshed in the site (= receives links within the site) and do a 301 redirect from the wrong URL to the right one + remove all internal links made at the duplicate URL.

Case 3: Tags that are too long

As a reminder, the meta description tag must not exceed 155 characters, otherwise it is truncated by the engines, which can affect the click rate of the page on the given keyword.

In that case, you can:

  • Use the tags to shorten them, except in the case of pages of no interest in SEO (T&Cs, recruitment, etc.),
  • Put a full first sentence of 155 characters minimum, followed by a 2nd sentence up to 230 characters long. This last option allows you to be more flexible if Google chooses to enlarge the snippets in its results pages.

Case 4: Tags too short

It would be unfortunate to have short meta description tags, as this is the most decisive on-page tag for click enticement, after the title.

We recommend that you go through and change all the meta description tags that are under 70 characters, in order to flesh them out with rich semantics for the keyword concerned.

Other little tips :

  • Do not repeat the same keywords too closely.
  • Do not make a bilingual page in the description.
  • Avoid putting numbers, special characters, capitalized words within the description.
  • Avoid dated indications with one-off events (unless you change the meta description very regularly in order to be up to date).

To avoid for example: stuffing of keywords without coherence and which consequently does not make you want to click at all:

balise-meta-description-natural-seo

Important Note

Every page on your site must have a unique meta description tag, so each meta description must correspond to a specific query that a user could search for in Google. This is why we often say "a web page" = "a keyword".

Now you know how to analyze and correct your meta description tags!

What's next ?

Now that your description tag is optimized with Smartkeyword, let's move on to url optimization.

   Article written by Louis Chevant

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