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Writing an Effective Meta Description

Believe it or not, now you almost have all the basics of natural, organic search engine optimization at your fingertips! I’ve covered how to optimize content, optimize images, and optimize links. We’ve explained what HTML page titles and meta descriptions are, and how to use page titles for SEO — and today, I’m covering how to use meta descriptions for SEO.

Writing a simple, effective, compelling meta description is no harder than writing a simple, compelling, effective sentence or call to action. In fact, your meta description, at the most basic level, is a just short summary of what your web page or blog post is about.

Like your HTML page title, your meta description is very important in attracting new visitors to your website from organic search. Often, but not always, the description shown by the search engines for your web page or blog post is the HTML meta description you write.

So when someone is viewing a list of web pages in a search engine results page (SERP), they scan the list, quickly reading the descriptions for each listing. They then decide which results are closest to what they are looking for or which are the most interesting — and those links are the links they click.

Needless to say, a well-written, compelling, unique description written for every web page or blog post, can help persuade people to visit your site and increase click-throughs from search.

HTML Meta Description Tips

Before you run off and write descriptions for every one of your web pages and blog posts, here are some tips to help you write effective meta descriptions:

  • Optimal HTML meta description length is 160 characters. Anything longer will be truncated and not be displayed. Some experts will tell you the meta description can be longer and the added text can help your rankings — but please know that it is not a best practice
  • Each page and blog post on your website should have an accurate, focused meta description that is unique to that page or post. Unique descriptions for each page help both search engines and people tell your pages apart, especially when multiple pages from your site are shown on the same search engine results page
  • Make sure your description is helpful — that it gives people the information they need to make the decision to click your website link. Think of what might compel them to click and include that in your meta description
  • Meta descriptions for blog posts may also include the author’s name, date, or other relevant information — especially for guest posts
  • Consider including contact information in the meta description tag for Contact pages
  • If keywords or key phrases in your meta description match the same keywords used by the person searching, the keywords will appear bolded in the search engines results page listing. This way people can quickly see that your web page or blog pst is relevant to what they are searching for

What To Avoid When Writing HTML Meta Descriptions

  • Don’t stuff keywords into the meta description tag or use a long list of keywords separated by commas — that approach is pure spam and is completely unhelpful
  • Don’t write descriptions that are irrelevant to the content on the page
  • Don’t write really long descriptions just to fit in more keywords
  • Don’t copy and paste a large block of content from the page or post as the meta description
  • Don’t use the same description on more than one page or post

How To Add An HTML Meta Description To Your Page or Post

By default, the Genesis Framework has SEO features built-in, but we highly recommend using the WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast. When installed on a Genesis WordPress site, the WordPress SEO panel simply replaces the Genesis SEO panel.

Below is a screenshot of the WordPress SEO panel and a sample meta description tag:

Screenshot of Yoast WordPress SEO plugin panel

Now What About You?

That’s It! While there are some nuances you need to be aware of, HTML meta descriptions are just that — descriptions of what your web page or blog post is about.

Did you know how important and effective HTML meta descriptions are to your SEO efforts? Did you know they are used in search engine results page listings — and that you have influence on what shows up? Did you learn anything new you’re going to implement on your own website? Do you have any tips or insights to add that I may have missed?

I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below!

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Comments & Feedback:Check out what others have to say about this post!

  1. Thanks for this series, Jennifer. I know it is helpful for many people who are great at what they do but don’t understand the technical side of things very well. Your explanations are clear and helpful.

  2. Jennifer, to answer your questions at the end, yes! I do know how very important those tags are. Thankfully I work with a really bright web developer who is a whiz with those. I do appreciate your visually instructive posts!

    • Jessica &#8212 I am so happy to hear you found this easy to understand … SEO can be so complicated and that was my goal with this series. Thanks for stopping by the blog :)

  3. Jennifer,
    This is an excellent closing for your fine series.
    All important information with descriptions, images
    and the ‘how to’ for everything described.

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