The meta description meta tag is considered to be a tag useful to use on web sites, whether they are large or small. For a small web site (<50 pages), it’s entirely feasible to write the meta descriptions by hand. What happens, though, when we’re talking of a web site with hundreds or even thousands of pages (online stores, large publishing web sites)?
A first solution is to automatically take the first sentence in the description/text of the page. The problem with this approach is that the sentence an article starts with is likely to have much more or much less than the recommended size of 110/130 (minimum) to 155/165 (maximum) characters with symbols. In this case, my advice is to avoid using the meta description at all and just let Google determine itself what’s the best text to take from the page.
I want to present, in this article, a second solution for creating meta descriptions for large web sites.
The formula for my solution looks like this:
[title of the article/page/product] [brand name] [small motivational text 1] [small motivational text 2] [small motivational text 3]
For example, a meta description could look like this:
Google Nexus 6P – Amazon.com. Trusted by millions of shoppers worldwide. Shipping within two working days. Free delivery within the US.
I have used the following replacements:
[title of the article/page/product] = Google Nexus 6P
[brand name] = – Amazon.com
[small motivational text 1] = Trusted by millions of shoppers worldwide.
[small motivational text 2] = Shipping within two working days.
[small motivational text 3] = Free delivery within the US.
How to generate the [small motivational text #] text portions, and still avoid having duplicate meta descriptions on the web site? My suggestion is to create some buckets of texts for each of the 3 blocks of texts.
[small motivational text 1] = Trusted by millions of shoppers worldwide. / 30-days return guarantee. / One of the best prices on the market. / Big discounts compared to brick-and-mortar stores. / etc.
You should create the buckets of texts with a different number of texts in each one (I’ll explain why below) – for example, the first bucket 10 texts, the second one 12, the third one 14. Also, you should avoid having duplicate texts from one bucket to another. So, if in the first bucket you talk about discounts and prices, avoid doing so in the second and third bucket. How should you attribute texts from the buckets to each of your pages in your web site? My suggestion is to do the following (if you show the following algorithm to a programmer, that person should be able to implement it):
- Convert each letter and symbol in the URL of each page to an ASCII code.
- Make the sum of each ASCII code above and get a large number.
- Get the module of dividing the number above to the number of each item in the bucket. Since the buckets have a different number of items, you will get, each time, a different description for each URL.
I suggested, above, to use the ASCII code of the URL because that’s the least likely to change when doing changes to a web site. Also, if you’re going to do a site migration in the near future, you could use just the second part of the URL, so not this: www.site.com/folder/page.html, but this: /folder/page.html.
2017.10.02: How to find texts to use in your meta descriptions. Look on Google for ads in your field, by searching things like “buy laptops” or “book price”. Use this tool to simulate searches in different countries/languages:
I Search From: custom location, language, device & personalization Google Search tool to preview ads & results
Source: SEO Ranking Factors 2017: What’s Important, What’s Not By Herndon Has…
PS, 2018.02.05: The larger the sets you use for meta descriptions, the lower the chance Google will see your texts as duplicate meta descriptions.
PS, 2018.02.07: As the previous point said it, you might consider that Google will see the meta descriptions as duplicate content and not show them.
A few thoughts on this:
- Even when you manually create meta descriptions for large web sites, you will likely run into duplicate content for meta descriptions for large web sites. There are only so many ways you can invite people to click on your link.
- I think a lot more emphasis is put on AdWords texts, how to create the perfect title & description for ads, while organic meta descriptions get ignored, and most of the time untested. With my solution, you can change this easily. You will be using some of the same principles as when creating AdWords texts.
- If you have a large enough pool of data to use, I think that the problem with duplicate meta descriptions is minimal.
P.S., 2018.05.09: To avoid issues with duplicate meta descriptions, the buckets of texts should be very large for very large web sites. So not 10 texts, but more in the areas of hundreds / thousands. It’s not easy to do this, but should be easier than manually editing the descriptions.
P.S., 2018.06.10: Also see: How to Write Meta Descriptions in a Constantly Changing World (AKA Google Giveth, Google Taketh Away) – Moz.
P.S., 2018.06.14: Also see: Reducing the time it takes to write meta descriptions for large websites – Search Engine Land
P.S., 2018.11.14: Let’s say you want to make initially buckets of 20, 23, and 32 elements. And you plan on adding some more as time passes by. It might be a good idea that instead of 20 elements you copy & paste those elements and add 40 (2*20), 46 (2*23) and 64 (2*32). And when you add the new elements, some of the meta descriptions don’t change so radically by using this formula.
P.S., 2019.04.21: Also see: Cum faci meta descrierile semi-automat pentru un site de 1.000+ pagini? – DWF.
PS, 2020.03.14: De ce să adaugi brandname în meta descrieri? Meta descriptions and branding have the most influence on search clickthrough, survey finds – Search Engine Land.