Gabka Koscova

What NOT To Do When Writing a Meta Description

Writing a meta description is often a neglected part of Search Engine Optimization. However, writing “something” is typically good enough for most website owners and marketers. A meta description is not a ranking signal, and keyword stuffing within the body of the content doesn’t help with ranking higher in search engines anymore. That is why it is somewhat understandable why marketers just don’t think that spending time on writing a good meta description is still worth the trouble.

However, the meta description has a big influence on your potential customers because they show up in the search engine page results under the link. If you want your descriptions to appeal to your customers so they will click on your site, you should check out the following tips on how to write the best meta descriptions.

1. Don’t Focus On the Number of Characters

It is common knowledge to keep your meta description length under a certain amount of characters. SEO specialists used to recommend to keep it around 155 - 160 characters. But there was an update from Google in December 2017, which caused the length of meta description to increase. Nowadays, it is recommended to keep meta descriptions under 300 characters.

That is actually correct information, but I wouldn’t necessarily always stick to the characters in every situation. Even though it is used by many SEO specialists, it's only because it is easier to imagine, especially when they work with copy, rather than imagining it in pixels. But the real length of meta description for a desktop computer is 1,750 px (note: it was 920px before the update in December).

Luckily, there are many tools that will show you a preview of your meta description copy. I personally use this checker, which shows me the length, both in characters and pixels. Therefore, it is easy for me to write my text without focusing only on the number of characters.

It might happen that the meta descriptions with less than 290 characters wouldn’t fit to the search result snippet, and that meta descriptions with more than 300 characters would fit to the search result perfectly. It is even possible to create a meta description with 544 characters, if you really try.

It is also important to realize that your users are using different devices. Result snippets are usually shortened by the width of the device that is used. 

2. Don’t Duplicate Your Meta Description

Even though the duplicate description doesn't mean a quality problem with your website, I would rather keep it empty. In that case, Google will generate it automatically from the page content. In the end, the generated meta description can look much better than the description which provides the same information every time to your potential customers.

If you are not able to write a unique meta description for every page on your site, which is perfectly normal, you don’t have to panic. Focus on the most important pages like the homepage, main category pages and the pages that bring you the most traffic.

If you have thousands or even millions of pages on your site, you can also create a template and generate new meta descriptions, while only changing the keywords, like in the examples below.

3. Don’t Forget Keywords in Your Copy

Be sure to use the right keywords in your meta description that is the most relevant to your page content. I am sure that many people admire creativity, but in this case, you should think about the keywords that your customer will be looking for.

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If not, a search engine crawls the very first sentence that consists of relevant keywords and shows it in the search results. Like in this case, where I was searching for travel gifts, I found this description that didn’t make any sense.

I was curious about an original meta description, so I looked for it:

I liked the creativity of the copy, but unfortunately, the missing keywords made it so that I didn’t see this description, but instead, I saw the irrelevant one.

4. Don’t Write Boring Descriptions

Large selection of clothes, shoes and design accessories. Sound familiar? Or even boring?

Writing the meta description is one of the few ways to show creativity in on-page SEO. Here you have the chance to stand out in the front of your audience. Take a look at these tips on how to do that:

1. Be specific in what you are offering. Trying to describe your landing page in a few characters is difficult, but if you are specific enough, or even when you write a few examples, you can’t go wrong with it. I like this description from Asos because I can really imagine what I will see after clicking on this result.

2. Make your customers curious. Don’t put all of your cards on the table right away, but keep something up your sleeves. Sometimes just the simple use of question marks or an unfinished sentence can make your customers really want to click on it. This one makes me curious, but I would reduce those questions a little bit.

3. Use symbols or numbers. Different characters other than letters can really get people’s attention. You can use a price or the number of products in your meta description. This one got my attention because it is not typical to see these types of symbols in usual search results.

4. Include a call-to-action. This might only be my subjective opinion, but I wouldn’t add a very directive call to action like “Read more!” or “Buy now!” to the meta description. It might just be too aggressive for the customers. Instead, I would include a call to action in the copy, like in the example below. I like the word “Discover” at the beginning of a nice sentence, rather than at the end of the copy as “Discover now!”.

5. Talk about them, not about you. This is one of the most important copywriting rules, and you shouldn’t forget about it, even when writing short copy like the meta description. No one is curious about how great you think you are; everybody wants to know what is in it for them.

The meta description below is a great example of both good and bad copy at the same time. I like the beginning of it because I want to satisfy my cravings. However, I am kind of confused about their statement at the end of the copy because to me, it seems like bragging.

5. Don’t Be Lazy | Set Up Structured Data

Even though this one is not particularly connected to the copy, it will help you stand out with your meta description in SERPs.

If you have reviews on your website or you can provide recipes, you shouldn't be ignoring structured data in any case.

You can also have your logo or company information in SERPs, making your company more attractive, especially when somebody is looking for your brand.

You can set up even the most basic structured data, like breadcrumbs.

Around 57% of the big companies don't have structured data set up for their pages. This is your chance to stand out more than your competitors.

Don't be lazy and just start with it now. It is much easier than how it might appear at first sight. Google guidelines will help you with all the basics, or you can use this simple generator to generate all of the data.

Do you have other tips or proven recommendations on what to do or what not to do when writing meta descriptions? Share it with me in the comments.

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All your tips and recommendation are all very true, I never thought that there are few things that I need to change and improve on my content marketing
seo strategy
Right, the descriptions are extremely important for the CTR, especially when dealing with content marketing strategies.
Excellent post Gabka! I have one question, hope you will answer to this question. My question is that "How much time Google will take to display brand carousel, if I have a new business".
fantastic post Gobaka, it really lets people think why they dont give importance to Meta Description
Excellent article Gabka! Good to highlight the benefit of structured data, it can often be overlooked!
Jamie FitzHenry
That's right. Thanks for the comment :)
Yes Gabka, I have seen big e-commerce shops using bad meta description and not following Google guidelines for writing a proper meta description, but as Google says, they don't rank the website according to meta-description. Yes, meta description only helps in providing you a better CTR.
Thank you for a wonderful content.
Jyoti Thapa
Thanks Jyoti, I appreciate your feedback :)
Great article! We typically have our content writer look at a copy of our keywords we are targeting for a given page, and she writes compelling copy that incorporates as many of those as possible. It's not something we do thinking it will help rank, we just want as many bolded letters to appear in the SERP so that our description stands out more than the competition. We're loving the opportunity to write a 300 character "mini-ad" and be creative.
Blake Akers
Hi Blake, I love your approach :) Thanks for the comment!
Good article, we know meta descriptions are so important for SEO and this is a great guide on a fresh approach.
Good call on not forgetting about structured data!
One of the most under rated parts of ecommerce marketing is optimising meta data and page titls. well done great job breaking it down. :)
Shane Pollard
Thank you Shane :)
meta description problem I always ignore., luckily I read this good info.,. thanks
this is the best meta description article out there, more than best actually is accurate, I think that google will remove the need of meta desc e kw soon since they are optimizing themselves with their powers !
Great Article Gabka, I usually copy paste the heading of the post in meta-description and add more details to it - is it in some way not right to do this? I mean from SEO perspective...
Hi Kanuj,

Thank you for your comment. Well, you can do that if your meta description meets the criteria that I mentioned in the article. I often copy-paste, for example, the lead paragraph of the article as well in case it is suitable for meta description :)
Got it and thank you.
Have a look of mine.
Amazing article! Thanks for the tips on Meta descriptions. Will put it to use for sure.
Shivangi Shrivastava
Thank you Shivangi!
I wonder if there is any study about effectiveness of different meta descriptions types? Would love to see some. Often the biggest problem is to decide which kind of description provides better CTR. Experimenting is long and not always accurate.
Max Sokolov
I know what you mean. I didn't find any complex study about this. However, I read some blog post and saw presentations on this topic. But it is always the same -> you have to test it for yourself as every segment is specific. But maybe I will consider starting working on this study :) Thank you!
use symbols — it's good idea for me! thanks.
Aleks Ritov
I am glad that this tip was helpful! :)
Hey Gabba
Super article. Thanks !
Rarely do people take meta descriptions seriously. And all your advice is right on the nose.
I am sharing this now :)
Jason Barnard
Thank you, Jason! :)
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