How would you describe on page SEO

Meta Descriptions - Basics of Onpage SEO

What actually is a meta description? Why is it important? How do you optimally use meta descriptions for the SEO of your website? You can find out all this and more in this SEO basics article from SEMrush.

Our on-page optimization checklist offers you further useful help with your on-page SEO.

What is a meta description?

A meta description is an HTML tag that is used to briefly describe the content of a website. "Meta" means "about", "description" means "description". In addition to the description, there are other metadata that are contained in the source text of a page above provide the page content.

The meta description is displayed in the search results together with the title (meta title) and the URL or path of your page. On the search results pages (also called SERPs - Search Engine Results Pages) it has the important function of giving the user an impression of the content of the target page.

To be fully visible in Google, the description should be between 140 and 160 characters including spaces.

Code example of a meta description:

Why are meta descriptions important?

Since meta descriptions are displayed on the search results pages with your title tag and your URL path, they can improve or worsen the click rates (also known as CTR - Click Through Rate) of your results. Studies have shown that the keyword in the meta description is a relevance signal for search engines.

It won't have too much of an impact on ranking, but it can play a positive role if used naturally and not too often. Of the components of your snippet in the search result, the meta description takes up the most space (namely two lines of text, while one each is used for the title and URL). So use this meta specification to present your website with a strong message.

How to improve your meta descriptions

The click rates of search results are considered a potential ranking factor. SEO-friendly meta descriptions are those that generate as many clicks as possible. Think of your SERP snippet like a traditional advertisement in a newspaper or magazine. Classic print advertising uses headlines and slogans to motivate readers to call a phone number or go to an address to buy a product in-store.

In the search results, your page title is the heading, your meta description is the slogan and your URL is the address. Since the meta description is something like a small sales presentation for a website, you should fill it with an active language that makes people click.

Convey the USP of your website with your description. Ask yourself: Why exactly is my page doing better than the other pages in search results? Don't be afraid to express your message emotionally. Emotional advertising usually goes well with addressing people's feelings.

A 2014 study by the Department of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of Glasgow suggests that human emotions can be broken down into four main areas:

  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Angry / disgusted
  • Afraid / surprised

Google offers space for a summary of one or two sentences (160 characters) for each search result.

In these one or two sentences, your descriptions should be one convincing reason for visiting the website deliver. Include a clear call to action, address a problem emotionally, or promise a specific benefit.

If your text is too long, it will not be displayed in full. Then many users ignore the truncated description. Even if it is vague, it does not arouse interest. There are always other results to choose from. Provides an optimal meta descriptionEstablish an emotional relationship with the seeker in a maximum of two sentences.

It is also important that each individual page on your website is given an individual description. Our onsite SEO study found that almost 30% of the websites examined had duplicate meta descriptions and these were missing on 25% of the pages.

SEO-friendly meta descriptions

Do the following with your descriptions to generate clicks and drive users to your website:

  1. Keep it one or two sentences long (140-160 characters)
  2. Don't forget to use your keyword
  3. If possible, add a call to action
  4. Avoid duplicate meta descriptions
  5. Make the description meaningful and appropriate to the content
  6. Target an emotion

Also read Google's recommendations: Create meaningful titles and snippets for search results.

Tip for advanced users: Use multiple meta descriptions for individual pages

In general, every page contains exactly one meta description. When there are several, it is usually due to human error.

In some cases, however, multiple meta description tags are intentionally used. With this, webmasters want to give the search engines additional descriptions as options that match different search queries of the users.

Targeted use of several meta descriptions

The use of multiple meta description tags is becoming increasingly common, especially with large-scale content targeting multiple keywords. Several different search queries with suitable meta descriptions are to be served here in order to achieve the best possible click rates.

For example, at SEMrush we could do a post on various aspects of keyword research. We use the following search terms:

  • "What is Keyword Research?"
  • "Keyword Research Tools"

These keywords have significantly different search intentions, although they are clearly linked in terms of content. The point behind using multiple meta descriptions here would be to create a suitable description for each search phrase and intent.

So when a user searches for "What is Keyword Research?" searches, the search engines would display our result with the meta description tailored to that search query. If, on the other hand, he searches for "keyword research tools", the second tailored meta description could appear.

However, there is no guarantee that a search engine will use your desired meta description. Implementing multiple descriptions is at your own risk.

How to implement multiple meta descriptions

The meta description can be found in the HTML source text of a page. Therefore, the exact procedure for adding a meta description depends on the application you are using to create your website.

In order to define several meta descriptions, you need access to the HTML source texts of your website and you need to be able to edit and change them.

A meta description tag must be located in the HTML code between the head tags of a page, according to best practice below the title tag. For example:

This will add a meta description to your page. To use more than one, repeat this process and place a second description between the tags. It would look like this:

To maximize the effectiveness of using multiple meta descriptions, they should reflect the search intent of the highest search volume keywords for which the pages are or should be visible. This then gives search engines the ability to select the most relevant meta description for the user's search query.

Is it recommended to use multiple meta descriptions?

Unless you consciously try to influence the search results as described above, it is generally best practice to provide only one meta description for each page.

On every page you optimize, you should use your target keywords and make sure the content is 100% individual. It should also meet the search intent of the most important keywords for which you want to be visible.

Useful online tools for checking your meta descriptions

Below are two helpful tools that you can use to test your meta descriptions as you create them.

  • SEMrush On-Page SEO Checker - This SEMrush tool checks whether your title and description contain a keyword and suggests a suitable one if necessary. On Page SEO Checker also provides you with a detailed list of actionable, tailor-made optimization tips for every page of your website.
  • Portent - With this snippet generator you can test what your search result will look like by entering your meta description, your title and your URL. Check the pixel width of your title and the character length of your description and see how different keywords look in bold in your description.