Should you have a unique meta description for every page? Before I dwell on the issue, let me explain the term meta description in the context of content writing.
WHAT PREVENTS US FROM WRITING UNIQUE META DESCRIPTION?
As per Moz, Meta descriptions are HTML attributes that provide concise explanations of the contents of web pages.
Going by its definition, it may apparently seem to be similar to a foreword. A foreword or an opening statement in the beginning of a book used for shedding some light on the subject of a book. It turns a prospect into a buyer by luring him/her with that brief explanation. Likewise, a meta description is also instrumental in converting a searcher into a loyal reader/follower/client ensuring healthy click-through rate.
The difference between a foreword and a meta description is that a foreword of a book provides more information. Even if it is not lengthy, it does provide enough opportunity for explaining the subject. Whereas, a meta description is not that spacious enough to provide more information on the post.
Also, a meta description can’t be made as voluminous as a foreword as that is not feasible. Search engines usually provide this description in two or three lines accommodating at least 155 – 165 characters.
If it is made as big as a foreword or an opening statement of a book, then Search Engines will have to compromise with the number of URLs shown up on each result page. This will not be in keeping with the user-friendliness of such pages a search engine is known to have. So, a meta description has to be mandatorily as much spacious as it is now.
Besides, you must be aware of the reading habits of onliners, web users. That is they don’t read, they usually scan your content. The same applies to your snippets also. So, big descriptions may fall flat with your audience.
However, many in the blogosphere opine that 250 characters would have been great. There are some snippets containing 250 characters generated by Google. There have been cases when Googles have generated meta descriptions of 275 to 331 characters.
Matt Southern in his post www.searchenginejournal.com/google-titles-and-descriptions has stated that descriptions space has been widened to 278 to show more characters. But this trend has been observed in UK. I personally have observed Google generating meta description of 331 character length. This is restricted to the search query length.
However, based on usual search trend, meta description length of 155 – 165 characters is still in use.This constraint prevents webmasters from writing a unique meta description.
That is what most webmasters think when they are about to write a meta description of a blog post. Because they want to provide a little more explanation to make them more appealing. This becomes more evident when they end up with descriptions contain characters more than the recommended limit.
WHAT MAKES A GOOD META DESCRIPTION TAG?
A good meta description will compete with millions of such descriptions written every day. Then, what are the ingredients of a good meta description?
1. As told earlier, a meta description will have 155 to 165 characters. You have to ensure that your snippet does not exceed that limit. Else, characters beyond the stipulated limit will not be reflected in the SERP. As a result of which your snippet will appear incomplete. An incomplete or truncated meta description tag stands to lose valuable traffic.
2. Never use any part of your content as meta description. Try to put up your original version. You should also avoid copying meta descriptions of other bloggers or repeat a previously used one of yours.
3. Google loves relevancy. You should, therefore, include your focus keyword in the meta description to give an indication to Google that your description relates to the search query. Else, Google may perceive your description to be an irrelevant one and ignore it altogether. And it may pull data from the first few lines and reflect them as meta description tag. Such descriptions usually appear to be truncated in the search result. However, Hubspot has some reservations against such snippets as you stand a chance of failing to convert prospects into clients.
4. Your meta description must not misguide your audience to a content that is not in sync with the snippet. A difference with the content may invite Google penalty. Google may not use keyword meta tag for the purpose of ranking. But it can still perceive textual mismatch with the description and award penalty accordingly.
4. There was a time when meta description influenced your ranking. I am not aware to what extent it used to. But nowadays, most search engines including Googles don’t use meta description tag as ranking signals. Therefore, keyword stuffing in this available space will be an exercise in futility.
HOW TO WRITE A UNIQUE META DESCRIPTION
Till now, what I have asked you to do will make good description but not unique. But to enjoy an edge over your SERP competitors sharing the same result page as yours, you have to be unique. Yoast too thinks that your description should stand out in the competition from the result page. This is evident in the screenshot below.
What then makes your meta description unique. The uniqueness lies in the way you write.
- Webmasters should try to elicit a response with a call to action approach. Hubspot supports using verbs like “Learn”, “Discover” or “Grab”. Yoast prefers invitations like Learn more, Get it now, Try for free.
- Neil Patel in his epic post “18 -tools-for-better-content-creation-improve-your-writing-with-less-effort” has emphasised on using the following power words in title headlines. If these power words (power phrases) can be used in the meta description, they will obviously cause readers to click-through the links in the SERP.
- Or you can also exploit some of the emotional word powers which Neil prefers. You may differ with me on the premise that Neil has actually advised webmasters to use in headlines. But what is the harm if these words can lend a little bit of charm to the descriptions as they do to the headlines. Now, what to use, where, when and how to use, totally depends on the sort of context you pertain to.
- The team of Yoast prefers using rich snippets if your site pertains to products for tech-savvy, manufacturing products etc.
- You should use active voice in your text. This will make your snippet unique.
- In the available space, emphasise on the benefits of the product you are endorsing.
- A business entity can include its phone number in the description.
I know it is not always easy to include each and every characteristic in the allotted space for meta description. You have to master the art of writing one. It is not easy but not impossible either. The mantra is that you may utilise certain points while ignoring others. After all, there may be a unique description but there is nothing called a perfect one.
SHOULD EVERY PAGE HAVE A UNIQUE META DESCRIPTION?
Now, I am coming to the question – should every page have a unique meta description.?
Opinions vary from person to person. Let us see what Matt Cutts has to say in this regard.
I reproduce what Matt Cuts says on having a unique description on every page.
Matt Cuts is of the opinion that it depends on the webmaster to have one or otherwise. But in any case, he or she shouldn’t have a duplicate one.
He further continues that it is probably not worth one’s time to come up with a unique meta description for each single page. More so, if the page doesn’t matter. However, if it is a Home page or page which has some commercial value, then one should put up a meta description. And not let search engines generate a sloppy one.
Also, he believes no snippet can be a perfect one. But rather than repeatedly going for a meta description, again and again, it is better to have unique descriptions for pages which really matter. Or leave it to Google to generate one for you instead of having a duplicate version in many pages.
Webmasters sometimes take meta description too seriously. They even go to the extent they expect their hired web developers to write this description. It is true that meta description is important as it ensures healthy click-through rate. But it is not that you should have a unique meta description for every page. We can decide on what we ourselves can do and what should be left to Googles.