What is the Meta Description Tag?

The meta description tag is found in the <head> of a page's HTML source, and is used to provide a brief description of the page's content.

A typical meta description tag:

<meta name="description" content="Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua."/>

What is It Used For?

Most search engines do not use the meta description as a ranking factor. However, there are other purposes for the meta description tag.

  • Search engines will typically (but not always) use the meta description for the snippet on the SERP. This means that since it's displayed just below the page title on the SERP, users will use the description to evaluate the quality and relevance of the site to their search query. Therefore, meta descriptions have a very large influence on click-through rate.
  • Meta descriptions are also commonly used on social media sites when a user shares a link to the page. Here as well, meta description will also be a large determining factor for click-through rates of social shares.

What Does "Duplicate Meta Descriptions" Mean?

If one or more other URLs share exactly the same meta description as this page, they will be listed in the table below as having duplicate meta descriptions. The number of duplicates refers to the total number of URLs that share this same meta description.

Why It's Important

Having a good meta description is crucial to the SEO success of your site. It doesn't matter how high your page ranks, if the snippet is poorly-written, your click-through rate will be low which will lead to very little traffic to your site. All the work you spent getting the page to rank well will have been wasted.

A good meta description is like a short advertisement for your site. It's your chance to convince users that this page has the content that they're looking for. If keywords in your meta description match the user's query, they will be in bold text - further showing users that your page is the most relevant one to their query.

Having duplicate meta descriptions almost guarantees that they will not accurately describe each individual page's content. They will either be too general to be helpful to users, or they will be relevant for one page but not to the other pages that share the duplicate meta description.

How To Fix

This issue can be avoided by giving each URL a unique meta description. Take a look at the table below, and write a unique, well-crafted meta description that adequately describes the specific page's content for each URL in the table. Follow the guidelines below for best practices.

Guidelines for Writing a Good Meta Description

  • Think of your meta description as a short advertisement for this page - write enticing text that will make users want to click on your site's listing.
  • Meta descriptions should be natural-sounding, human-readable, and in sentence form.
  • Make the content relevant to the specific page, not the entire site.
  • Try to anticipate what the user is hoping to find on the page, and include this in the meta description.
  • Be sure to include targeted keywords in the meta description, since the user's query usually appears in bold on the SERP snippet.
  • Do not stuff the meta description with an excessive amount of keywords.
  • Each meta description on your site should be unique.
  • Keep the total length to 160 characters or less to avoid truncation.
  • Avoid using double quotes or other non-alphanumeric characters in the text, as these can sometimes cause search engines to truncate content after these characters.
  • If there is a large number of duplicates, it may be a good option to consider writing the meta description programmatically. While not quite as good as human-written unique content, it can be a good solution for very large sites with a large amount of duplicate content to automatically generate the meta description based on page content or keywords. This is typically done by setting up templates for groups of similar page types. Each template will contain 1-3 sentences with blanks, which will be filled in programmatically by keywords assigned to the page. All of this is typically done using server-side scripts or a CMS.
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