We’ve already talked about meta description basics, like what they are and how to set them, but in this post, I’d like to address a question I’ve come across many times in client meetings and SEO communities: do I need individual meta descriptions for each of my web pages?
- Are meta descriptions required for SEO?
- Do I need to set meta descriptions?
- Should I optimize each of my meta descriptions?
- Pros of unique meta descriptions
- So, do I need to set unique meta descriptions or not?
Are meta descriptions required for SEO?
Yes, every web page that shows up in SERPs has a meta description. However, that does not mean that it was provided by the site owner or content creator.
If you don’t set your own meta description, Google will make provide one for you by taking a line or two of content directly from your webpage.
Do I need to set meta descriptions?
Yes and no. As mentioned, if you don’t write your own meta descriptions, Google will set them for you. Sometimes, even if you do write your own meta descriptions, Google will ignore them and use something it thinks is a better fit.
While you may not need to set a meta description for every single page on your website, you should make an effort to optimize your most important pages, such as:
- Your home page
- Product landing pages
- Popular URLs, like your best blogs, About Us, or Contact pages
That being said, you don’t have to optimize meta descriptions for every single page on your website if you don’t have the time or resources.
Should I optimize each of my meta descriptions?
Yes, any meta descriptions that you do set should be optimized for SEO.
Here are some basic guidelines to follow when optimizing your meta descriptions:
- Include your primary keyword
- Stick to a reasonable character limit (100-160 characters)
- Explain what readers can expect to learn by clicking the destination URL
- Avoid keyword stuffing
- Steer clear of duplicate meta descriptions (or risk keyword cannibalization)
The pros of unique meta descriptions
If you still aren’t sure about whether or not you should bother to set or optimize meta descriptions for your website, here are some of the benefits they offer:
1. Meta descriptions increase SERP click-through
A good meta description gives potential customers an overview of your page, post, or product. This information helps them to decide whether your site has what they’re looking for. The better your meta description, the more likely users are to choose your link and visit your website.
And, the more click-through you have on a specific link, the more likely you are to jump to a higher spot in SERPs. So many wins.
2. Meta descriptions are used in multiple places
Meta descriptions don’t just show up in SERPs, they also show up in link previews on social media and in emails and messaging platforms, like Slack and Messenger. This means that by setting and optimizing a meta description, you have an opportunity to tailor the description of your page to entice users and include actionable language.
3. You can update meta descriptions whenever you want
Since meta descriptions aren’t set-in-stone SEO requirements, you can update, change, or experiment with them as much as you want. For example, if you’re updating a piece of evergreen content, it makes sense to edit and adjust the meta description as well.
It’s also possible to experiment with them by updating them and then evaluating their performance after 3-6 months to see whether things like click-through or social shares increased.
Unlike title tags, where small changes can drastically affect performance, updating meta descriptions is relatively low-risk.
So, do I need to set unique meta descriptions or not?
Maybe? I know it sounds wishy-washy, but it’s not a question with a black and white answer. I do recommend that you set unique and optimized meta descriptions for your most important pages, but beyond that, it really depends on how much time and money you have to dedicate to your SEO efforts.
If you’re on a limited budget, there are certainly other ways you can spend your money that will likely provide faster, more direct results. But, if you’re at a point where you’ve already picked all the low-hanging fruit, and you have the resources to support more optimization efforts, adding or optimizing meta descriptions is a great addition to your SEO strategy.