The meta description is a ~160 character snippet, a tag in HTML, that summarizes a page’s content.
Search engines show the meta description in search results mostly when the searched for phrase is contained in the description.
Optimizing the meta description is a very important aspect of on-page SEO.
What does a meta description do?
The meta description is an HTML tag, which looks like this in the HTML:
<meta name=”description” content=”A page’s description,
usually one or two sentences.”/>
The function of a meta description for your page is simple: its main purpose is to get the visitor from Google to click your link.
In other words, meta descriptions are there to generate clickthroughs from search engines.
Search engines say there is no direct ranking benefit from the meta description – they don’t use it in their ranking algorithm.
There is an indirect benefit, though: Google uses click-through-rate (CTR) as a way of determining whether you’re a good result.
If more people click your result then they’d expect based on your position, they move you up.
This is why optimizing the meta description is so important, as is optimizing your titles.
Characteristics of a good meta description
I think every article on meta descriptions will tell you some of these, but I combined all that made sense to me and came up with this list.
1. It should be around 135 to 160 characters.
There is no ‘this number is right’ in this.
It depends on what Google adds to your search result and how much they want to show.
Google might, for instance, add the date to an article, and that will reduce the number of characters.
We wrote about going back to 10 blue links.
Bearing that in mind, the rule of thumb is that 135 characters is usually fine.
Lately, we have even seen meta descriptions that contain over 250 characters.