All you need to know about meta descriptions (complex guide)

All you need to know about meta descriptions (complex guide)

The last time I was doing an SEO analysis of our website’s content, I got stuck with meta descriptions. I started to get confused, because I couldn’t figure out how Google was accepting meta descriptions and how result snippets were generated.

Normally, everybody thinks that if they set a meta description on the page that it means that Google will show it. But that is not the case.

It almost drove me crazy, because I had no clue how to set them properly, so that visitors to the website could see them in the SERP snippets.

Since I couldn’t find any complex information about this topic, I decided to do all the important research for myself, and then to share it with you.

I had read many questions from marketers, managers, e-shop owners and small entrepreneurs through various forums or social media groups, and they all seem to ask the same questions:

  • How are the meta description generated in the SERPs?
  • What is its impact on the results in the SERPs?
  • How can I customize them?
  • What is an optimal length?
  • How can I manage them on large websites?
  • … and much more.

I have done a lot of testing to find out how those meta descriptions work and how they are generated in various search engines or from mobile phones.

I also wrote down a few tips for you to create and optimize them, so your visitors or customers can see in Google’s meta description exactly what you want them to see.

So, if you are an entrepreneur with a small website or a marketing manager of a big e-commerce website, you should find answers to your questions in here.

I will start with the basics. But if you already know all of that, you can skip the first part and move on to more advanced information.

Table of Contents

1. Basics of a meta description

  1. What is a meta description
  2. Why is a meta description important
  3. How meta description looks in different search engines
  4. Where to add a meta description on the page
  5. What tool to use for the analyzing of a meta description

1.1. What is a meta description

A meta description is a short excerpt of a specific page. This excerpt gives a clear idea of the site’s content. It commonly appears underneath the blue clickable links in a search engine results page (SERP). It also appears in the snippets of shared articles and posts on social channels.

In the SERPs, meta descriptions give people more information and help them to find answers to their questions. It is also an important decisive element for users who are deciding whether or not to click on the link.

For fast and easy understanding of what the meta description is, listen to an explanation from Google webmaster Matt Cutts: “How much time should I spend on meta tags, and which ones matter?

1.2. Why is a meta description important

What are the biggest benefits of setting your meta description?

  • You give people the right information.

People want to find relevant answers in the search engine as soon as possible, and you can help them. If you write a detailed, relevant and eye-catching description, they can immediately know that your page will help them to find the information they need.

  • You can increase your CTR (click through rate) from SERPs.

When you write a relevant and persuasive meta description, which is full of important information, you can convince people to click to your page. You increase the click through rate, which leads to a higher number of visitors, to a higher conversion rate and finally, to an increase in your revenue.

  • You get more visits from social media.

Facebook, Twitter and others social channels also use meta descriptions with shared posts. If you have an interesting description focused on the right audience, you can get their attention as well.

1.3. How meta description looks in different search engines

Here are some examples of how meta descriptions are displayed in Google, Bing and Yahoo.

Result snippets look similar, but there are some differences, which I analyze below in this article.

In Google on a PC

Google meta description snippet

In Google on a mobile device

Google meta description snippet mobile devices

In Bing

Bing meta description snippet

In Yahoo

Yahoo meta description snippet

1.4. Where to add a meta description on the page

There are two ways to easily add the meta description on your page.

  1. Add the meta description in thesection of your site’s HTML like this:

  1. Set up the meta description in your CMS:

If you use WordPress, the most widespread plugin is Yoast SEO. I think it’s the best plugin for SEO controlling meta tag and keyword settings on the page. I’ve been using it on Spotibo’s website, too.

Just write your text  into the “Meta description” section, and it will show you how your snippet will look in SERPs. Read the tutorial on How to add keywords and meta descriptions in WordPress here.

Set up the meta description in WordPress

1.5. What tool to use for the analyzing of a meta description

If you are the owner of a small website, it’s easy to find all meta descriptions and analyze them manually in the CMS.

But if you have a bigger website, it would take you a lot of time to check out every page.

  • Search Console
    Google itself offers you a tool called Search Console for webmasters, where you can check your meta descriptions in the “Search Appearance” section, and then “HTML Improvements”. Google will show you short, long and duplicated descriptions.

The disadvantage of this is that the Search Console doesn’t show you all of the descriptions you’ve set on your website. You see only those meta descriptions having some issues.

Search console checking meta description

  • Spotibo
    I recommend that you try our SEO analysing tool Spotibo, where you can analyze the meta descriptions of all your pages in more depth.

Spotibo bot will crawl your website as any other search engine bot. It will display a table of all meta descriptions on your website. It will show you the number of characters for each meta description, so you can analyze by yourself if it’s long, short, empty or perfect. It’s possible to group and to filter a huge number of pages, so it’s easy to find any deficiencies in your meta descriptions.

Checking meta description in Spotibo SEO tool

Before you check out our tool, read a tutorial on how to work with Spotibo and how to search for all the important issues.

2. Optimal meta description length (+ our research)

I found that 77% of all searches in the world are made by Google. Therefore, I did my research mainly when using Google.

  1. Optimal meta description length for desktop devices
  2. Snippet’s meta description longer then optimal length
  3. Optimal meta description length for mobile devices
  4. Optimization tool for creating meta descriptions
  5. Length differences in the other search engines

2.1. Optimal meta description length for desktop devices

Almost everybody asks about meta description length, but the answer to this is little bit tricky.

The most typical advice is to keep meta tag under 155 characters, including spacing, so the whole length of the meta description should appear in the snippet.

According to Dr. Peter J. Meyers’ analysis, meta descriptions are shown in range from 141 up to 160 characters. He and many others say that the best practise is to keep your meta description under 155 characters, so the whole meta description should appear in the snippet.

But there are a few exceptions:

Optimal meta description length for desktop devices

The default meta description for this webpage is 155 characters long. However, Google shortens it. Actually, you can see only 144 characters, including spacings. Why?

Meta description depends on the snippet length in pixels; it doesn’t depend on the number of characters.

In the example above ,you can see lots of dots, commas and spacings in the meta description. It’s optically inflated, so that’s why the default meta description can’t fit into the snippet.

Last year, Google increased the length for both meta titles and descriptions. A snippet on desktop devices is 600 px wide. But as the meta description exceeds into two lines in SERPs, according to our observations, its real length is around 920 px wide. In rare cases, width can be even bigger, up to 945 pixels.

We created “laboratory conditions” for a quick test to find the maximum number of characters in the SERP snippet. In our little test, the meta description containing vertical lines is 270 characters long. The number of characters is not as important as the width in pixels.

Test length of meta description

Our recommendation

When writing a meta description, you should use a tool for checking the right width in pixels. You can do so, for example, with the free Google SERP meta description length checker.

It doesn’t make sense to rely on any plugin or tool which measures only a number of characters.

2.2. Snippet’s meta description longer then optimal length

Have you ever been wondering why sometimes meta descriptions in SERPs are much longer than others? Like in the picture below?

Snippet’s meta description longer then optimal length - example

If the user is searching for a long-tail keyword, Google tries to find each keyword in the meta tags and page content to  show them all in the snippet.

How does it work?

If users are searching:

  • With less than five keywords, the meta description is usually within the limit of 920 pixels.
  • With five or more keywords, the meta description is usually much longer. Searched words are far from each other, and Google will try to put pieces of the text together.

If the searched keywords are close to each other in the content or used in the same sentence, there is a higher possibility that the generated meta description will be under the usual length limit.

The same pattern applies for mobile devices.

Our recommendation

Long snippets are closely related to long-tail keyword queries. If your meta description is optimized for longtails, Google will display a normally short snippet, because the meta description is perfectly optimized. Long snippets can be displayed mainly if your meta description is not optimized for the keywords, so there is no way to reach them. Just leave it to chance.

One method which is worth a try is to get your page into the featured snippet. It’s the first result in Google SERP, which users see when they are asking their questions. Here you can read how you can get a Google featured snippet. Google has started to use them more and more.

For some specific long-tail keywords, your web page can be shown in the results twice, both in the featured snippet at the 0 position and then, for example, at the second position. In the case that you optimize your page for the featured snippet, you’ll also get more space for the meta description.

Featured snippets in Google with meta description

2.3. Optimal meta description length for mobile devices

Users have been using mobile devices for surfing more and more. Different content types attract different users on various platforms. Have a look at the statistics of mobile vs. desktop internet usage, where you can choose the market you are focusing on. The use of mobiles differs in each region and country.

As an example, the use of mobiles in the U.S. has been increasing during the past year greatly.

Desktop vs Mobile vs Tablet Market Share in United States Of America

As you can see, mobile optimization is a necessity for your business today, as well as in the near future. This optimization also applies to meta descriptions, because the meta description length on mobiles and tablets is shorter than the length on desktop devices.

Differences in mobile devices

1. The optimal length for a meta description set in an html meta tag

The maximum width of the snippet is about 780 – 840 pixels. Depending on the mobile device, you can see meta descriptions as long as 100 – 145 characters.  The best practice is to keep them under 120 characters.

Meta description length for mobile devices

2. The optimal length for meta description generated by Google

If users are searching for long tail keywords, Google generates longer meta descriptions, exactly as in the desktop results.

In these cases, results with meta descriptions can be much longer. In the example below, you can see 172 characters with a width of 973 pixels. But it’s possible to get even longer snippets.

You can use the Mobile search simulator for seeing your pages in various devices.

Meta description length for mobile devices

Our recommendation

The meta descriptions displayed on mobile devices can be vague. When creating meta descriptions, you should:

  1. Write short meta description tags (around 120 characters)
  2. Put all the important informations, including the focused keywords, at the beginning of the description.

2.4. Optimization tool for creating meta descriptions

As Google now calculates meta descriptions in pixels, you can use the free Google SERP meta description length checker as a guide when creating your meta descriptions or titles. If you keep the pixel width, your snippets will definitely fit in SERPs results, and you can be assured that all the important information in the meta tag is indexed and shown to all your next visitors.

2.5. Length differences in the other search engines

Along with Google, I also checked other search engines, so you can see if the same rules apply for them, too.

Example

Bing:

The maximum pixel width is 998.

Meta description length in Bing

Yahoo:

The maximum pixel width is 972.

Meta description length in Yahoo

With Bing and Yahoo, there are no long snippets in the case of longtail searched queries, as in Google.

Mobile devices

The meta descriptions on mobiles work on the same basis, as with Google. The number of characters depends on the width of the mobile device. With Bing and Yahoo, there are up to three lines of text in snippets. Vertically, there is a smaller number of characters displayed. Horizontally, there is usually the same meta description as on the desktop.

Search engine Max. pixels desktop Max. pixels smartphone
Google 947 840
Bing 998 Up to 998, depending on the height of the device. Bing shows up to three lines of text.
Yahoo 972 Up to 972, depending on the height of the device. Yahoo shows up to three lines of text.

Our recommendation

If your customers are using Bing and Yahoo, too, there is no need to optimize meta descriptions. The differences in length are minimal.

The meta description length for those is bigger than in Google. It means that if you write meta descriptions for Google, the meta description is automatically optimized for the other search engines, too.

3. Generating the meta descriptions by search engines (+ our research)

As I mentioned above, I did my research mainly on Google. There are a few differences in generating meta descriptions in other search engines, and I write more about it at the end of this chapter.

  1. Basic rules of generating meta description snippets in SERPs
  2. Meta descriptions and its specifications for e-commerce pages
  3. Meta descriptions and their specifications for company services pages
  4. Meta descriptions and their specifications for blogpost pages
  5. Meta descriptions and their specifications for news pages
  6. Differences in the meta description generating by the other search engines

3.1. Basic rules of generating meta description snippets in SERPs

You’ve probably noticed that search engines may or may not use your meta tag description in the snippets. Why is that Google sometimes ignores our meta description and other other times just accepts it?

What they claim with Google is that they try to offer visitors better results and to avoid having them feel frustrated by irrelevant pages that they open.

The basic assumption when generating meta descriptions is :

  • If a visitor is searching keywords that you have in your meta description, Google will use your description.
  • If you have the keywords in your page content but not in the meta descriptions, Google probably won’t use your meta tag description.

In another case, Google generates descriptions from the page content instead of from the meta tags, so the result snippet in SERP is in the best match with the user’s query.

Since I couldn’t find any detailed information about how Google generates the meta descriptions, I did some research on my own, trying to find some pattern.

I found out that this pattern applies to various web pages in different ways. Because of that, my findings are divided into four parts for:

  • E-commerce pages
  • News pages
  • Company services pages
  • Blogpost pages

3.2. Meta descriptions and its specifications for e-commerce pages

I was searching the keywords “men runnings shoes”,  “running shoes” and  “nike running shoes”, and I got this meta description:

Meta description length in online stores

The searched words are used in all important ranking elements – in the URL, in the meta title, the meta description and in the h1 heading. Therefore, Google used a default meta description in the snippet.

I was searching the keywords “men running shoes style”, and I got back this meta description:

Meta descriptions for online shops

The word “style” was found in the bottom content, but not in other meta elements. Therefore, Google generated its own meta description, which matches the search query more. Why?

It depends on if you’re matching the website content and the exact query of a potential visitor. Basically, snippets in SERPs are customized to display meta descriptions with keywords that are searched by users.

Moz recommends that if the page is targeting between one and three heavily searched terms or phrases, the best option is to write your own meta description that targets users performing search queries including those terms. If the page is targeting long-tail terms, let the engine generates descriptions itself.

Our recommendation

While writing an effective meta description for an e-commerce page, you have to think about the structure of the whole website. Basically, there are:

  • Home pages.
  • Category pages of products with a similar character, which are designed and optimized for search engines, so they can be ranked in high positions in SERPs.
  • Product pages, which can be ranked for popular, long-tail and more specific search queries.

The home page and category page both need to have a great meta description. These pages have a great potential to rank high so they can bring new customers to your website. Do not forget to include your brand name in the descriptions.

Some product pages have organic leads for highly searched keywords, including names of products (for example – “iPhone 7”), sometimes together with the review question (for example – “iPhone 7 review”). It’s always a good idea to use these words and also a call-to-action in the meta description. Check out how to write a great meta description in my infographic.

Some product pages with lower leads or values don’t need to have set meta tag descriptions. In that case, Google will display them in SERPs, and Google can generate an attractive description, for example, from the product description. I explain more below in the section Is it OK to have no meta description set?.

Another great practice for product pages is the application of structural data. By using it, you can get even more information into the snippet – ratings with stars, reviews, price, availability like on the picture below, and more.

Meta descriptions for e-commerce pages

If you want to have more control over the product page, you can set its meta tag, of course. I explain more in the section “How can you manage meta description on the large websites?”.

3.3. Meta descriptions and their specifications for company services pages

I was searching for various keywords, including “design free logo, design online logo, free logo maker, online logo maker, free online logo maker and logo maker”, and I got this meta description every time:

Meta descriptions for company services pages

The searched words are used in all important ranking elements – in the meta title, the meta description, partially in the URL and in the h1 heading. Therefore, Google used a default meta description in the snippet.

I was searching for various keywords like “design unique logo”, and I got this meta description:

Meta descriptions for company services pages

The word “unique” was found in the main heading, but not in other meta elements. Therefore, Google generated its own meta description, which matches the search query more. Why?

Google shows the default meta description in the snippets:

  • If the search keywords match with words in the meta title and the meta description of the page.
  • Sometimes, if the search keywords match with words in the meta title of the page.

Google doesn’t display the default meta description:

  • If the search keywords do not match with the words in meta tags, even if they are used in the h1 heading.
  • If the search keywords are slightly different.
  • If the search keywords are long-tail.

In this case, Google takes it from any of the text, including matching keywords within the query.

Our recommendation

Make sure that you use every core target keyword for each page in the meta description, as well as in the meta title. If you target a larger number of keywords, try to put them all inside both the meta tag and description.

John Mueller advises that you should check which queries leading to your website have the highest number of impressions in the Search Console, and try to search those queries by yourself. Then you can see which meta descriptions come back in Google. In case Google picks a description from the page content, that means the meta description is probably not similar enough to the query. In that case, you may consider expanding the meta descriptions to cover all those keywords.

If you have a new website, a proper keyword analysis with a search volume data is always a good place to start.

People often search long-tail words. But it’s impossible for you to create the meta description with every keyword. Sometimes, you can’t avoid the fact that Google will generate a snippet based on what the user is searching for.

3.4. Meta descriptions and their specifications for blogpost pages

For the blog posts, the rules are the same for the company services pages.

Basically, in the blog section of your website, there are:

  • Category and possibly tag pages
  • Single post pages with quality, long-lasting content, which are designed and optimized to be landing pages; they can be ranked for short, but also for long-tail search queries.
  • Single post pages with short-lasting content, written mostly for social media sharing with a small amount of information.

Pages with quality content need to have a unique meta description. These pages have a great potential to rank high.

Single post pages can have meta tag description as well, but it is not necessary.  They have a lower value and probably a low ranking. In that case, Google will display them in SERPs, and the engine will generate quite an attractive description from the text. I explain more in the section below – “Is it OK to have no meta description set?”.

Read more about meta descriptions on your blog here.

3.5. Meta descriptions and their specifications for news pages

For the news posts, there are the similar rules as for the other websites.

Basically, there are:

  • Home pages
  • Category pages
  • Single news pages with quality but short-lasting content. Here I talk about news which is being updated every day, along with quality content that is important, but isn’t long-lasting.

Our recommendation

Home pages and category pages are two types of pages you should focus on. As a meta description example, I chose a result for searched keywords “news politics”. In the case of a snippet for The Independent, where there is no meta tag set, I got back not very relevant or interesting results:

Meta descriptions for news pages

So, it’s better to have the meta description optimized here.

Single news pages are often not so important when optimizing for an organic search. Google generates meta descriptions in the best match with the searched query, because there is a lot of relevant content with relevant keywords. Therefore, meta descriptions look very clear in SERPs, so you don’t need to spend much time on them.

But don’t forget that in the case of an online magazine, articles are the most important pages, bringing your readers from Google to your website. So if you or your redactors have additional time for writing unique meta tag descriptions, go for it.

Don’t forget that space for the meta description in SERPs is shorter. In each beginning of the snippet, there is the date or hour of the post publication. Keep the tag under 140 characters. Otherwise, it’ll be shortened by the search engines.

While I was doing my research, I got confused many times. I was searching the same keywords in Google at different time intervals and on different days,  and sometimes I was getting different snippet results.

Remember, that even if you use target keywords properly in meta tags, there are exceptions on occasion, when Google generates the snippet by its own algorithm, so you can see the snippets of your pages in SERP differently at different times.

3.6. Differences in the meta description generating by the other search engines

Besides Google, I also checked other search engines, so you can see if the same rules apply to them, too.

I was searching the query “good meta description”, and in Google, I got back this meta description:

Meta descriptions in  the other search engines

This meta description is automatically generated by Google to match the searched keywords. This description is chosen from the content of that particular page.

I did the same with Bing and Yahoo:

Meta description generated in Bing

Meta descriptions generated by Yahoo

Bing and Yahoo used the written meta description set in the html meta tag.

Even if it is a pretty common thing that Bing and Yahoo do not always generate a meta description based on the searched query, it’s not a rule.

In various cases, they both think in a similar way that Google does. If search terms are more specific or long-tail, Yahoo and Bing can generate their own meta descriptions, as you can see in the example below.

I was searching the query “unique meta description used keywords”, and in the search engines, I got back different meta descriptions:

Generating meta description by Google

Generating meta description by Bing

Generating meta description by Yahoo

Our recommendation

If your customers are using various search engines, there is no need to optimize meta descriptions. The differences in generating are minimal.

4. Basic FAQs about meta description

  1. Is a meta description a ranking factor?
  2. How do you create a great meta description?
  3. Is it OK to have no meta description set?
  4. Is it OK to have duplicate meta descriptions across more pages?

4.1. Is a meta description a ranking factor?

A meta description is not a ranking factor. Webmaster John Mueller from Google said that recently in a webmaster hangout.

We know, though, that a good written meta description can affect the CTR (Click Through Rate). What we don’t know for sure is if the CTR is a ranking factor.

If the CTR is a ranking signal, creating a good meta description would be an important task for getting better rankings.

Larry Kim at his Moz blog and Rand Fishkin at the Whiteboard Friday present their researches and findings about interesting conclusions that many SEO specialists don’t agree with.

They said that the CTR, as a part of RankBrain, can temporarily affect the results. They tested this in MOZ a few times. The tested page results temporarily got better rankings in SERP because of a high CTR. However, after some time, those page results decreased to previous rankings. These conclusions lead to controversial discussions between SEO specialists every time.

Our recommendation

If it is rumor or not, you’d better stick with the fact that you should edit meta descriptions only for getting a higher CTR. Do not overstuff it with keywords. Think about it as a medium that can attract new readers or customers to click through. Make it attractive for users.

4.2. How do you create a great meta description?

Creating an attractive meta desription is not an easy task. But we are here to help you.

You can watch this video on how to improve the meta descriptions for your brand. It was created by Evolving SEO, and we really love it.

I also created an infographic with my own tips on how to write a good meta description.

How to write a great meta description infographics

For further reading about writing a perfect meta description for SEO, read an article from Anthony Tran.

4.3. Is it OK to have no meta description set?

If you have a large website, you don’t have to create meta descriptions for every page. You can leave the meta tag empty. Google will generate it for you.

So how does it look then?

Example

It can look quite good, as in the example below . The search query is “where does creativity come from”.

No meta description on page

However, it can also be bad, as shown below. The search query is “email tips for developers”.

No meta description set in meta tag

Here is one last example. The search query is “yamaha naked motorcycles”.

No meta description tags on page

Why?

Google can display your page in the SERP with:

  1. A nice meta description for your page, full of important information by using your well-written content
  2. An unattractive description because Google has a problem finding any continual and relevant content related to the searched keywords

If you haven’t set a meta description, you can’t be sure how it will look. What can you do about it?

Our recommendation

Matt Cutts explains here in what cases you should use meta tag description and when you don’t need to.

On every website, ensure you have set a meta tag description on:

  1. A home page
  2. Any currently important or potential landing page
  3. Categories in online stores, blog posts, contact pages and special events

Pages which are not displayed in SERPs don’t need to have set meta descriptions.  For instance, this can be applied on new websites. Less important pages can be finished later.

If you have no meta descriptions across the website, you need to create some coherent text on the website pages. Google will use that text with focus on search keywords for the SERP snippets, which can look good. If you don’t have coherent text on the pages, Google will display “ugly dull” snippet created from the sidebar, navigation or footer.

4.4. Is it OK to have duplicate meta descriptions across more pages?

Google says: “Avoid using a single description meta tag across all of your site’s pages or a large group of pages.” But why?

In some cases, it can be better to have no meta tags, rather than duplicated meta tags that look off-topic, low quality or outright spammy, because Google will ignore them and pick more relevant text into the snippet.

How do duplicated meta descripitons look in SERPs?

Example

Check out this meta description example of Tesco store. Tesco store has a great potential to influence people to click through four results on the top in the Google SERP.

Duplicated meta descriptions

Default descriptions for all these pages have 67 letters: Shop online for our great range of and have delivered to your home.

Titles of those pages are different, so you know what the content is about. But the meta description is ripped out from the faceted navigation on the left side of the page.

Why?

In this case, Google would rather display boilerplate text, because the duplicated meta description in the SERPs for all Tesco results wouldn’t look nice and would be saying nothing. Large online stores often don’t use any continuous text on the important landing pages, as in this particular case of Tesco on the page of Frozen Fish. Google can’t find any better description than that in the internal menus, navigations and categories.

Our recommendation

As you can see, it is definitely not a good idea to have duplicated descriptions on your website.

If you have the duplicate meta descriptions across the website, you need to have created some coherent text on the website pages. It’s the same as in the case of setting no meta description. If you don’t have coherent content on the page, you’re risking that Google will generate an unattractive snippet.  

5. Advanced FAQs about meta description

  1. How can you manage meta descriptions on large websites?
  2. How meta descriptions work in social media and how to set them up
  3. What to do if you don’t see your meta descriptions in the SERPs?

5.1. How can you manage meta descriptions on large websites?

It is easy to set meta tags for a few pages, like online newspapers or blogs. Articles are hand-written, so writing one or two extra sentences for the meta description doesn’t take the author so much time.

But let’s have a look at the best option for those sites with hundreds, thousands or more URLs, like huge online stores with product aggregators.

For the home page and every important landing page, it’s important to use a unique description. For the category and product pages, you can use a programmatically generated description.

Example of a programmatically generated description

  • Branded sandals from leading dealers for the prices that please. At ZOOT we have blue, pink, pink shoes from Refresh, Rascal and others.
  • Branded boots from leading dealers for the prices that please. At ZOOT we have blue, beige, camel boots from Blowfish, Rocket Dog and others.

In examples above, category pages selling fashion include automatic and repeated information.

Why is it enough to generate a description programmatically for product pages?

Some product pages are important, because they are displayed in SERPs and they can generate new leads. In here, write a unique and juicy meta description to increase the click-through-rate.

However, in large online shops, you can have thousands of products, which are not interesting for SEO. It’s very common within big websites to automatically generate meta descriptions, because it’s not possible to write everything manually, and setting it up is quickly done. After all, these pages can be shown between SERP’s results, when users are searching long-tail and specific keywords, often in combination with your brand.

It is also better than no meta description, because your snippet will be shown when somebody shares your page on social media.

Our recommendation

In the meta tag descriptions on the category pages, you can adjust the information for the category, colours, brands, the most selling brands, performance, prices and more. Web developers should know how to deal with more difficult entries.

Look at other meta description examples:

“Branded tops from leading sellers for the prices that please. At ZOOT we have black, white, green tops from AX Paris, Tally Weilj and others.”

“Branded shirts from leading sellers for the price that please. At ZOOT we have green, white, blue shirts from AX Paris, Desigual and others.”

In the meta tag descriptions on the product pages, you can adjust the title of the unique product, brand and more. It works as well on the category pages.

Black top with lace TALLY WEIJL for every occasion. Fast and free shipping.

Cream shirt with short sleeves BUSHMAN Tees for every occasion. Fast and free shipping.

5.2. How meta descriptions work in social media and how to set them up

Do you have a business page on any social media platform? Do your followers or users share your content? If so, you need to think about a social meta tag and a suitable snippet, too.

Why?

If you want to speak to your audience on Facebook or Twitter differently than your audience in the organic search, you should use different meta description variants in the snippets. But if you speak to your customers on every platform with the same language, there is no reason to spend time on variant descriptions.

What is the optimal description length in Facebook and Twitter?

  • On desktop devices

On Twitter, it’s around 135 characters. A Facebook meta description depends on the length of a meta title. If the meta title is too long, there is not much space left for the meta description, so it can be shortened.

  • On mobile devices

This depends on the width of mobile devices and on the length of a meta title, exactly as in the desktop devices. The meta description can be shortened or not shown at all.  

In my opinion, the more you keep the meta description short (under 120 characters), the better it’ll look on any platform and on any device.

There are two ways to create social media snippets:

  1. You can use HTML attributes:
  • OpenGraph attributes for Facebook look like this:

It’s very similar to the meta description set in an HTML meta tag. It works basically the same way. Facebook finds the attribute and uses it in the post snippet so readers have a main idea what the page is about before clicking on it. For more details, read the tutorial on how to set up the Open Graph on Facebook.

  • Twitter: description attributes for Twitter look like this:

If the page has an OG attribute and no Twitter attribute, Twitter will read and use the OG tag. If you don’t differ between audience on Facebook and on Twitter, you don’t need to use the Twitter attribute.

  1. You don’t have to use these attributes, and you can rely on the meta tag descriptions.

Social media can handle the meta tag description and use it for a snippet in the news feed without any problem. The Nike store subpage for men’s hoodies is a great example. In the code, I found only the meta description tag and no OpenGraph or Twitter tag. This snippet is looking exactly the same in every platform, both on Google and on Facebook.

meta descriptions in social media, Facebook and Twitter

5.3. What to do if you don’t see your meta descriptions in the SERPs?

After changing or adding a meta tag description into an already indexed page, you won’t see results in the SERPs immediately. It takes some time for search engines to crawl your website.

But if you want to make the process faster, use the Search Console for webmasters. In the Crawl section, click on Fetch as Google, and let it crawl your site. Google will fetch your site and send it to index. Results are not seen immediately. It takes one or two days.

Conclusion

This guide is based on my own research, together with using information from other respected marketing specialists. SEO is constantly evolving, and so are the search engines. Sometimes they are vague, especially Google. Therefore, all this information doesn’t have to be 100% true, and maybe you can find meta description examples with different results than what I have shown you here.

What you need to understand about the meta description is that:

  • It is an important part of on-page SEO.
  • Interesting descriptions can draw new customers and raise the click-through rate.
  • In some cases, it’s a necessity and in some cases, it isn’t. It all depends on the content of a specific page and the purpose of the page.

Do you have more questions or do you have any interesting experiences with generating or using meta descriptions? Let me know in the comments below. I am more than curious to know what you think about this guide.

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