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."/>

Search engines do not use the meta description as a ranking factor, but there are other important uses:

  • 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, searchers 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 someone shares a link to the page. Here as well, the meta description will also be a large determining factor for click-through rates of social shares.

What Does "Meta Description Empty / Missing" Mean?

It means that there was no meta description content found on the page. This could mean one of two things -- either the tag is missing completely, or it was left blank with no content (e.g. <meta name="description" content=""/>).

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 could be low which will lead to far less 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.

If you do not write a meta description, search engines will be forced to create the snippet themselves. Sometimes search engines can create a very intelligent snippet that works great for the user's query. However, much of the time this is not true -- search engines may just grab the first 160 characters on your page (which could be the navigation) or use some other irrelevant piece of content on the page that may not be very enticing for users to click on.

By not writing a meta description, you're giving up control of this crucial element, leaving it to the search engine to create an enticing snippet for users to click.

How To Fix

This issue can be avoided by writing a unique meta description for each page. Write a unique, well-crafted meta description that adequately describes the specific page's content for each URL. Use the guidelines below for best practices.

Guidelines for Writing a Good Meta Description

Rewrite each of the meta descriptions with a target length under 920 pixels. Here are some other best practices for writing good meta descriptions:

  • Think of your meta description as a short advertisement for this page - write an 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 often be a much better solution than a high quantity of duplicates.

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