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How to Adhere to Google’s Meta Descriptions and Search Snippets Update


Google recently updated its documentation on meta descriptions showing up as search snippets. There isn’t a major shift or change, but Google’s given more examples of what good and bad meta descriptions look like and how some meta descriptions will appear in search snippets.  


In this article, we’ll define what meta descriptions and search snippets are and how to properly write your meta descriptions so that they might appear as search snippets.


What are Meta Descriptions?


On a technical level, meta descriptions are short snippets of HTML attributes, characters, and metadata blurbs that summarize a webpage’s content. In HTML code, they often look like this:


<meta name=”description” content=”A webpage’s description, one or two sentences.”/>


In short, meta descriptions are brief one-to-two sentence summaries of a webpage. Meta descriptions appear on the search engine results page (SERP) and should act as a hook and entice people to click on the page.


What are Search Snippets?


On Google, search snippets are short summaries designed to preview and highlight the page content. They appear directly below the webpage’s title or title tag on the SERP and are automatically created from page content.


Sometimes, Google uses your meta descriptions to generate its search snippets if they accurately represent what is on the page. 


See the example below for one of our blog posts that’s meta description is also a search snippet.


Screenshot of a Google search with a red box around the meta description below the title tag.


Here’s an example of a meta description that doesn’t appear in the search snippet due to Google changing the search snippet.


Original meta description written in Word Press:

Screenshot of written meta description in Word Press

Search snippet:

Screenshot of a search snippet outlined in a red box on Google's SERP


How to Improve Meta Descriptions, So They’re More Likely to Appear in Search Snippets


You can adjust your meta descriptions so that they’re more likely to appear in search snippets. Doing this gives you more control over how to hook readers and increase clicks to your site. 


Below are examples of meta-description practices to avoid and better alternatives.


1. Keywords Only


Avoid: Including a list of keywords in your meta description that don’t summarize the page or content.

  • Example:  “Chinese restaurant, Chinese food, Chow Mein, Dumplings, Kung Pao Chicken”


Alternative: Summarize your business’s offerings and key business information.

  • Example: Get authentic Chinese food and great service! We’re open Tuesday-Sunday, 11 am-10 pm, located at 53rd and 2nd street.


2. Doesn’t Summarize the Page


Avoid: Using a snippet of text that doesn’t summarize the page.

  • Example: On average, property management companies who implement multifamily marketing gain 5.8 percent profit MoM than those who don’t.


Alternative: Provide a quick summary of the web page while being enticing 

  • Example: Our study on property management companies found multifamily marketing efforts have a significant ROI. Learn how + 7 key multifamily marketing tips.


3. Too Short


Avoid: Similar to the previously mentioned tip, a meta description that’s too short doesn’t give enough detail, nor will it fully summarize the page’s content. 

  • Example: Marketing tech software


Alternative: Be concise but also relevant and indicative of what your page contains. Especially for product pages. 

  • Example: SOCi’s listing software covers every step of the process to propel your listings to the top of search results — syncing, updating, and managing local listings.


Other Best Practices for Meta Descriptions

  • Meta descriptions and tags should appear on every page of your website
  • Try to keep meta descriptions under 155 characters
  • Write meta descriptions in active voice
  • Aim to include keywords in meta descriptions, especially for product pages or SEO-driven blog content 


For more information on how to write quality meta descriptions that’ll appear in search snippets, read Google’s updated guidance

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