What is Meta Description and why is it important?

Happy Thursday!  It’s time for another Blogger Series article.  Today I’m discussing Meta Description. 

If you missed any of the posts in this series, these cover details about starting your own blog and what to consider.  You can find links to each of the topics I’ve already covered in my Blogger Series section.

Title Image - Blogger Series: What is meta description and why it's important

What the heck is Meta Description?

Meta Description is that small snippet of text you see on a search engine’s results just below the title and page URL.

The example below shows the Meta Description text in grey below the green URL.

Screen grab image of Meta Description of Ari Meghlen Pinterest

What is Meta Description actually used for?

Now technically the Meta Description should summarise the contents that can be found on that page.

So that example above is my Pinterest Bio that tells you what sort of boards you’ll find on my Pinterest Account.

If you like dark art and cute animals, you might think “hey, I’ll check that out!”  If I hadn’t written a bio, there may have been no text there at all.  Then you’d have no idea what I pinned until you clicked.  But then, why would you even click?

How is Meta Description created?

Depending on your blogging platform plan or if you are self-hosting, you may be able to create your own Meta Description.

Unfortunately, on free plans or even on Premium with WordPress.com you can’t make these changes yourself.  If you have the Business Plan on WordPress.com you can then install a plugin called YOAST SEO that will include this feature (and more).

So, without being able to manually create Meta Description, it is pulled by the search engine itself after it crawls your page.

How long can the Meta Description be?

On Google, Meta Descriptions used to be around 155 characters.  This appeared to change in 2017 to allow 300 characters.  Though I’m noticing that many now (as of writing this) appear to be around 161 (with spaces). 

After the limited characters, Google truncates the text so the rest (if there is more) is left off.

Why do I need to know about it?

Meta Descriptions are important because they are like a mini billboard telling people about what’s on your content.  It’s a way of advertising your page.  If your description is something random or unclear people might click away.

With the right text, readers will know what your site is about and whether they want to click on it.  If it’s unclear or if there is no description at all, then they are more likely to pass you by.

If you have manual control your meta description then you can tailor it to fit within the standard character size, making sure all relevant information and keywords are included (in a readable, organic way… don’t keyword-stuff).

So, what if your platform doesn’t allow you to manually control the Meta Description?

Well, you can still take some control.  For example, a few months ago I randomly Googled myself (I do it from time to time).  This allows me to see what pages come up first.  After all, I want my website and other important pages to rank highly when searching for my own name.

This random check revealed my Meta Description was completely off.  Google had crawled the data from a text widget on my side-bar (that was actually below my profile) and used that instead.

Example of my original Meta Description

Screen grab of Meta Description of Ari Meghlen's Website (old)

As you can see, while my title and tag were clear enough the descriptions wasn’t exactly a draw to bring people to my blog.

I set about making a change to see if I could control what Google chose as that summary snippet.  I removed the copyright information and dropped it into the footer of my blog.

Then I waited.  The thing with search engines is it can take time before you are “crawled” again.  I discussed this “crawling” in my earlier post How to make your blog super SEO-Friendly.

Thankfully, because I update my blog so frequently I didn’t have to wait long to get crawled again.  So after a few days, I checked again and lo and behold the Meta Description had changed.

This time Google had pulled the information from my mini-bio situated on my side-bar.

Screen grab of Meta Description of Ari Meghlen's Website (new))

I had taken the time to change the title and tag of my website and this was also changed following Google’s crawl.

It’s worth checking

If I hadn’t checked my website on Google I wouldn’t be aware that the Meta Description was not doing its job.  Instead of advertising what my blog was about, it was full of data that did not inspire people to click.

Now there was a chance that when I rechecked, it could have randomly pulled data from another part of my homepage.  In which case, I would have just made another change and checked again.

It is worth taking the time to check your Meta Description and change it if necessary.  Maybe that means doing it manually if you can.  Or maybe it means tweaking your site until it works for you.

Have you checked your Meta Description and is it doing its job?

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Hope you found this article interesting.  These small catches I often discuss can have a cumulative effect.  They don’t take much to check out and if it helps to bring a few more people to your blog, then it’s worth it. 

I’ll be back tomorrow with another World Building post.  As always, leave me your thoughts in the comments below.

Happy writing

Ari

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