What is Meta Data (Description)?
Metadata is the HTML attributes that summarize webpages. They range from 1 sentence long to a short paragraph in length. The optimal length is between 50-300 characters as Google will truncate anything longer. The meta description is the blue text that appears under the search engine results page (SERP).
<head> <meta name="description" content="This is an example of a meta description. This will often show up in search results."> </head>
Meta description tags are important in obtaining user click-through from SERPs. These descriptions are an opportunity to advertise content and for the searcher to deem if the information is relevant to their search goals.
A page's meta description should be done tastefully in a non-salsey or spammy fashion. It should contain the keywords that page is targeting, but also provide a relevant description that a searcher will be pursuaded to click.
Neither metadata or meta keywords factor into Google’s ranking algorithm’s for web search, however they can impact a pages click-through-rate (CTR) which can influence the search rank.
SEO Best Practices
Write like a Copywriter
Imagine you are doing persuasive copy for an advertisement in Vogue or Entrepreneur magazine. Use important keywords that will increase click-though-rates. Keep in mind when Google matches a search query they will bold those keywords and that itself can be very eye-catching.
Make sure that each of your webpages contains a unique meta description or you could end up with multiple SERP page results.
Avoid all non-alphanumeric characters
Google will cut off any description that contains quotation marks in the HTML of the meta description so don’t use them.
You don’t always need a meta description
Even if you decide not to write a compelling meta description, the search engines will scrape your web pages. Knowing this, you may strategically choose to go this route but follow this general rule of thumb. If your page is targeting 1-3 highly searched terms, write your own meta description which includes those terms. If your page is targeting more than 3 keywords, then let the search engines scrape your page. The reason being, search engines will always pull keywords and surrounding phrases of the searched term. However one catch to this is social sharing sites often make use of this meta descriptions when sharing and if you choose to omit it there may just not be enough compelling content for a user to click-through, in other words, a bad user experience. So choose wisely.
Your Metadata may still be thrown to the wayside
Search engines may overrule your meta description if deemed it does not accurately answers a user’s search terms.