Meta Description is a snippet of text which shows up on the search results page under the blue website link in every listing. It is one of the elements displayed to help users further understand what the particular page listed is about.
Apart from search engines meta descriptions sometimes appear on social media platforms when someone shares a page.
As a webmaster, you can write a meta description for a page by using the meta description tag in the <head/> section of the page.
<meta name=”description” content=”Write your description of the page here. The same might show up in search results.”>
Popular reasons for duplicate meta description
Duplicate meta descriptions occur in one of the following few cases
- Your CMS might use a default description across all pages of your site. In such cases, the pages where you haven’t manually appended the meta description might start showing the default description which totally irrelevant to the current page.
- Duplicate meta descriptions also occur when your website uses similar templates for different page types. For instance, a product page on Superman comics might end up having the same meta description as a blog post on Superman comics.
- Duplicate meta descriptions occur in paginated series too. Quite often paginated series contains the same description across all pages. You will need to differentiate the same using the Page number within the meta description.
- Filters and sort function pages are notorious for creating duplicate meta descriptions. These pages have to handled for duplicate meta descriptions with appropriate variables.
Importance of having unique Meta Descriptions
If you have a website it is important that you craft meta descriptions which are unique to each page.
This helps in two ways –
- The searcher can differentiate between the topics and content of the page and understand what exactly the page is about.
- More the number of duplicate meta descriptions higher the likelihood that your search engine snippet is NOT optimized for search engine traffic. This dip in CTRs could mean lesser traffic and lower ranking in search engine results page.
How to find duplicate meta descriptions on your pages
Finding pages which have duplicate meta descriptions is easy. For this, you must have verified your site using Google search console. Once you have done so Google will crawl your site and make a list of all pages which have duplicate meta descriptions.
You can access this report under HTML Improvements Section
You can see all the set of pages with the same meta description and even download the list for the convenience of research.
How to make meta description unique to all your pages
For small sites of 10-1000 pages
If you have a small website of few hundred pages then you should take the effort to write unique meta descriptions manually. Make sure you use the pointers below for the same
- Keywords – Use the exact keyword phrase you have optimized the page for in the meta description. If your page starts ranking for that keyword then you want to capture user attention and clicks. You can do this by using the unique keyword phrase the page topically represents.
- Change voice and style – Make sure you play around with the style and language of different meta descriptions. This will look more personal and might improve clicks. For instance, the writing voice you use in the meta description of a product page might promotional while that for a blog post might be more informational.
- Have a complete understanding of what the page is about – It is also important to make sure that meta description for a page aptly describes what the page is about. You have spent time understanding what the user who has searched for such a phrase is looking for. Also, know that you might have 2 pages on your website which are very closely related topically.
For large sites of 1000+ pages
If you have a large website then updating meta descriptions for each one of them manually is too tedious and might not be worth the time.
In such cases, you will want to have a list of all page templates on your site and use coded templates which write meta descriptions on to pages when the page is rendered by the bot of the user.
For instance, if you have an online store which sells a range of antique clocks then you will want to differentiate the meta description of the clock using a variable like style and model.
If you are selling superman comics one in hard copy and the other as an eBook then the meta descriptions of each of these pages should have the word “hard copy” and “eBook” as a differentiating factor.
In the below example Practo crafts a unique description for near similar topic pages based on the variable <locality>. The meta description template in the case below goes like this
<Speciality> in <locality>, <city>. Book Doctors Appointment Online, View Fees, User feedbacks, Address and Phone Numbers of <Speciality> in <locality>, <city> | Practo
See the below image that meta description is unique for each page by virtue of locality variable.
Meta Description Best Practices
Great Meta Descriptions can improve your click-through rates drastically. This, in turn, improves the search engine ranking. Following the below best practices you can improve your search engine traffic and rankings.
- Use highly relevant keyword phrases – You might have optimized the page to rank for a particular keyword phrase. Use the same phrase or a close variant in the description so that it catches the eye of the search engine user. Moreover when the searcher uses the keywords mentioned in your description search engines bold the particular keywords leading to better attention to your listings and clicks.
- Short, concise and readable – Meta description text should follow the same writing fundamentals which apply to the web. Refrain from using sophisticated terms and stick to read short sentences.
- Use a call to action – You should end your meta descriptions with a Call To Action. Call to actions like “Buy Now”, “Find Out More”, “Learn More” can entice users to check out your website. Call to actions is that nudge you have to give to users once he has checked out your listing.
- Mention your a Unique Selling Proposition – Your USP gives your user to click on your link and not your competition. If you have the best prices online then say it in your meta description. If you have free shipping on all products mention the same. If you are a Google certified developer agency mention it in the description. Whatever is your business proposition or your competitive advantage is use it in your description so that people take note and check out your website.
- Keep it under 160 characters – Google truncates meta descriptions which are longer than 160 characters. To get the best out of a meta description you have to make sure your page descriptions are lesser than 160 characters. Important details lost in truncation might not communicate the user the real benefits leading to reduced CTRs.
- Keep it unique for each page – Each page on your site should have a meta description which is different from every other page on your site. Your meta description should define what the page is about. You should be wary of other pages which have similar topics and differentiate accordingly.