The block of text that appears under each linked result in a search engine result page (SERP) like Google’s is typically derived from a web page’s meta description, though in rare circumstances search engines may provide a different description and ignore a web page’s meta description entirely.
The SERP description for Scouting.org currently reads “Scouting is fun, hands-on learning and achievement that puts kids in the middle of the action and prepares them for today – and for life.”
This short snippet of text is a minor, but no less important, component of any website’s SEO presence. Its purpose is two-fold.
First, it’s the initial impression of your website for any potential user. This sentence will be their first indication of what that page may be about, so it should be clear and descriptive. Second, it acts as yet another touchpoint for search engines to identify what your page is about, and by extension, what searches it should show up for.
While you can use the same description for multiple pages, it’s generally best to be as specific to the content of that page as possible. As such, if you have the time to craft unique meta descriptions for each page, it’s highly recommended that you do so.
When writing your meta descriptions, try to keep it to a maximum of 120 characters if possible, or 158 if necessary. 120 is the maximum length that can appear in a mobile search without cutting off, and 158 is the same for desktop. Staying within these limits will ensure your entire description is displayed.
This is also a good place to include keywords as discussed here, but don’t just stuff them anywhere you can. Use them only when actually relevant to crafting a clear and articulate statement.
Setting up your meta description is as simple as a single line of code on your page:
<meta name=”description” content =”X”/>
Lets look at the scouting.org example from above again.
Behind the scenes, this is how that looks.
<meta name=”description” content=”Scouting is fun, hands-on learning and achievement that puts kids in the middle of the action and prepares them for today – and for life.” />
If you’re using WordPress and the Yoast SEO plugin, you can set any page’s meta description by editing the page, scrolling down to the Yoast SEO section and clicking “edit snippet”
Note that you can also use this tool to set a different meta description for mobile and desktop if you need to.