What is a meta description?

The meta description is an HTML tag used to provide a brief description of a web page. Search engines display the meta description of a page below the clickable link in search results pages as follows:

Example meta description in SERPS

Meta descriptions used to have an impact on search engine rankings but that is no longer the case. A well-crafted meta description, however, can inspire users to click your link when presented with options on search results pages. The main purpose of the meta description field is thus to engage readers and drive clicks.

Meta description best practices

Here are general guidelines for optimizing meta descriptions on your website:

1. The meta description should be an accurate and concise description of the page content.

2. The ideal character length for meta descriptions is less than 160 characters. Longer meta description text tends to be truncated by search engines on results pages, indicated via an ellipsis:

Example of truncated meta description in SERPS

3. The meta description for each page on your site should be unique.

4. Avoid double quotation marks in meta description fields as search engines tend to cut off text which appears after double quotation marks.

5. Avoid keyword stuffing and write your meta description with your target audience in mind.

How to set the meta description for a page

Most content management systems will allow you to edit page properties to embed meta description text.

Editing CMS page properties

In OpenCms, for example, this is editable via the description field for a page:

Setting page meta descriptions in a CMS

Hint: If you do not set a manual meta description for a page, search engines will usually extract text content from the page and display that in search results. There are pros and cons to this approach. 

Certain content on your site, such as news articles and insights, may automate meta description text based on the teaser text populated for each article. This is dependent on your CMS setup.

Article teaser text doubling as the meta description for the page