Inbound Marketing | Search Engine Optimization

How to Write an Effective Meta Description

A web page’s meta description is a bit like the back cover of a book or DVD – it’s something you skim through before you decide to purchase. In the case of your web page, it’s the short (no longer than 160 characters) snippet that shows up in search engine results describing the contents of the page. Your meta description’s assignment – and it must accept it – is to get readers to click on the link and go to your page.  It’s a must-do if you want to build up your SEO.

Sounds simple, right? And it is – just 160 characters. But there is something of an art to writing meta descriptions: as mentioned above, you want the reader to click on it. You want action.

Okay, So What’s a Meta Description Again?

The meta description is placed in the HTML of your webpage and it will appear under your web page’s URL in search results. It also shows up when people share your article with others via websites and their social media channels.

You add the meta description in the <head> section of your site’s HTML:

<meta name=”description” content=”I am describing my web page for you here. It’s really interesting with valuable information.”>

If you use an SEO plug-in on your website, you’ll just have to copy and paste your meta description (sans the HTML code) in the small box the plug-in creates for that very purpose. Easy peasy.

An important aside: Google has said it doesn’t use meta descriptions to help rank your page, but that’s not entirely true, because Google does use your click-through-rate (CTR) to determine if you’re getting good results. The more people click on your meta description in search engines, the more Google sees people clicking on it and so the more Google notices and moves you up in those search results.

So not only do you need to make your description actionable, you also need to need to optimize it.  Then, because Google is all about providing valuable information in search engine results, it will rank your page higher.

How to Write a Good Meta Description

Below are some quick tips on writing your description:

  • It should be between 135 and 160 characters (including spaces).
  • Include a focus keyword. It may not directly matter for search engines, but you want people to think that your page is relevant to their needs, so you need to have a focus keyword they associate with their query.
  • Write in the active voice and include a call-to-action: “Find out more.”
  • Make sure it matches the content; Google could penalize you if it doesn’t. What is mismatched content? An example is offering “My pill will help you lose 10 pounds in a week. Find out more!” when the page actually discusses how the site owner’s exercise program could result in weight loss of a pound a week. Subtle difference, but still not a match. Mismatched meta descriptions also are a great way to anger consumers.

Examples of Good and Bad Meta Descriptions

The keyword is “best gym in Detroit”.

Bad: Our gym is the best gym in Detroit. We have more than 1,000 members and they tell us we’re the best gym in Detroit. If you want to lose weight, come to the best gym in Detroit.

What’s wrong: Too long (177 characters), repeats the keyword too often, has no call to action, and is boring.

Good: Our members have lost a combined 2,000 pounds in six months and you can, too, when you join what they call the absolute best gym in Detroit! Learn more!

What’s right: The right length (152 characters), keyword appears once, active CTA, shows some proof (the weight loss), and is lively.


Mastering the art of the meta description can take time. If you’d like some more tips, contact the meta description-writing whizzes here at Ingenex Digital Marketing. We are a Michigan-based digital marketing agency and we’d love to put some zing in your descriptions!

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