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What is a Meta Description: Understand Meta-Descriptions

There are a lot of on-page elements that you can optimize to better add keyword relevance to a page. The meta-description field is one of those elements. One of the most popular on-page elements in SEO, there are many things that you may not know about the meta description.

What is a meta description? #

A meta description is a snippet of text used to describe the contents of a web page. Typically this text ranges in length between 100 and 150 characters due to the visibility limitations of mobile devices and not wanting to have the meta description truncated in the SERPs. While there are many tools and plugins that allow you to easily create meta descriptions, the meta description is the snippet of text that falls within the meta tag with the name description. For example:

<meta name=”description” content=”this is your meta description” />

Are meta descriptions ranking factors? #

No. Meta descriptions are not direct ranking factors. This means that adding keywords into your meta description will not directly impact how well that page performs.

Are meta descriptions shown in the SERPs? #

Sometimes. Meta descriptions were historically the snippet of text that Google displayed under a search result.

Old Meta Description Snippet

However, now meta descriptions are only shown about 25-30% of the time. For the majority of results, Google displays the snippet of text it chooses from the content of the page. That is the case with the example image above. The snippet shown there is pulled directly from the text on the page, not from the page’s meta description.

So why do we even bother with meta descriptions? #

Great question. Many folks don’t anymore. However, meta descriptions are still an on-page element that can add keyword relevance to a page. So in this case it’s still better to have a well-written meta description than an empty one. Also, as you can see from the image above, Google will often bold exact and relevant search terms from the snippet. This helps support click-through from the SERPs to the page. While the meta-description is only shown 25-30% of the time, there is still the opportunity to help influence click-through with a well-optimized meta description.