What is a Meta Description?
When looking at your content in the CMS, the meta description is populated from the “Description” field towards the top of the Properties > Parameters screen for the page. Between the “Title” and “Keywords” fields. The description provides Google and other search engines with a short, relevant summary of your webpage. When someone searches on Google, they see a list of the top results. In the results, there is the title of the webpage, the URL, and the description. Having a good description will help the user decide if they want to click on YOUR page, versus the other options.
Importance of Meta Descriptions
While the meta description itself doesn’t actually factor into Google’s ranking algorithm, it can still have an impact on SEO and page traffic. Writing a good description that is attractive and concise can help a user determine if the page contains the information they are looking for. When users don’t click on your page it reduces the click-through rate (CTR). Having a good CTR can positively impact the page’s ranking.
There is even more importance in a meta description than just informing the user. An issue arises when Google detects that two or more webpages have the same description. Which webpage is the real one? Which one is more important? Is the company trying to trick the user by having two pages with the same description?
When a meta description is too generic, perhaps just repeating the page title, Google may even ignore your description completely and use something it deems more appropriate from the content on the page.
Tips for Writing Meta Descriptions
- Don’t duplicate meta descriptions.
- If you have pages with the same topic for multiple years or semesters, such as a page about departmental seminars for each year, include the year in the description to avoid duplication. Instead of “List of seminars.” a better description would be “Seminars hosted by the Department of Biological Sciences during the 2023-24 academic year.”
- If you have content that may also be on other departments’ sites, such as a staff listing, include your department name. Instead of “Staff listing.” a better description would be “Staff listing for the Department of Chemical Engineering.”
- When you update content on a page, make it a habit to review the Parameters screen. Check that the description and keywords are still accurate.
- While meta descriptions can technically be any length, Google will truncate them to around 155-160 characters. Try to keep your descriptions concise, one to two sentences with the most important content first.