Q. What is a Meta Description?
A. The Meta Description is an HTML tag that can be used to summarise the content of a webpage. They tend to be no longer than 2 – 4 sentences and most of the time, they are displayed as snippets in a Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
The term ‘Meta Description’ is often used interchangeably with ‘Snippet’. Rightly or wrongly, this happens. So, to avoid any confusion whatsoever…
What is a Snippet?
The ‘Snippet’ is the text that you see underneath the hyperlink in an organic search result. It is a short paragraph that has the same purpose as the meta description; to inform the reader as to what that page is all about.
Seeing as everyone loves jelly, we thought we would use a jelly-orientated example of a snippet in practice. Here is a search result for ‘How to make jelly at home?’ We have highlighted the snippet in red.
Creating a Meta Description
Creating a meta description for a web page is simple. You have two options:
1 | Enter it manually;
You will need to enter the meta tag before the </head> element in your HTML. I have included an example of what your HTML code should look like below.
<head> <meta name="description" content="This is where you would write your meta description."> </head>
2 | Use a plugin;
If you use WordPress then you can use a plugin to make your life a whole lot easier. As plugins always do!
Yoast SEO is the best plugin on the market for managing your on-site Search Engine Optimisation. One of the many features that even the free version offers, is the ability to easily write and optimise your page titles and meta descriptions.
The Meta Description will always be in the Snippet, surely?
Now that you know where you stand regarding meta descriptions and how to add them, we just want to clear something up quickly. In the definition of a meta description at the top of this page, we said that “most of the time” they [meta descriptions] are used to populate the snippet in a search result. You may be wondering why this is the case. They both have the same purpose, right? So, why wouldn’t the meta description also be the snippet, all the time?
Generally speaking, up until December 2017, they were! When Google changed the maximum character limit of snippets/meta descriptions, they also changed the way that snippets are populated. From an SEO perspective, it is really important that you are aware of these changes. Have a read of our blog post that discusses why Google’s snippets in search results are longer now.