Long Meta Descriptions | Canonical Pages
In this guide we describe what this meta description is, what the check is, how it works, and we provide context as to why this SEO check is performed. The long meta description check is performed exclusively on canonical pages (pages with a self-referential canonical tag) within this part of reporting.
Long Meta Description Pages
Any meta description correctly implemented on a canonical page that exceeds 160 characters including spaces and punctuation, is defined as too long.
Every canonical page should contain a unique and optimised meta description within in the <head> section of the source code and it should contain no more than 160 characters.
What is a Meta Description?
A meta description is a tag containing text that exists in the source code of a page and is only visible or used in Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs). Meta descriptions encourage users to click on your organic listings and as such are a powerful indirect ranking factor. This makes them very useful for SEO, which means they should be optimised.
The meta description including the HTML tags (of our homepage) sits in the <head> section of the source code and looks like this:
<meta name="description" content="Raptor - Digital Marketing Tools. Advanced Web Crawler now available, sign up for a free trial and get 5,000 URLs free! Sign Up Today!">
What is a Canonical Page?
A canonical page is a webpage that has a self-referential canonical tag present on it. A canonical tag advises Google as to the preferred / original version of content. If a page / piece of content is accessible from multiple URLs or is long across multiple pages, a canonical tag helps to define the ‘canonical’ version.
A canonical tag contains a URL and if that URL matches the URL of the page being accessed, it is defined as a canonical page. Canonical pages are typically the ‘SEO’ pages of a site as they are most likely to appear in the search results. The canonical tag of our homepage looks like this in HTML:
<link rel="canonical" href="https://raptor-dmt.com/">
What is a Long Meta Description?
A long meta description is where a canonical page has a meta description correctly implemented within the HTML, but the content of the tag exceeds 160 characters in length.
Meta descriptions that exceed the character limit of 160 characters will be truncated within the search results and so the extra content over the character limit will not show. This means that any text after the 160th character will not show in the search results. This could mean that the call to action or vital USP is not showing to users in the SERPs.
Long meta descriptions should be re-written to fit into the character limit, to take full advantage of the space available and encourage clicks.
Learn more about meta descriptions and how to optimise them to help improve the organic visibility of your website.
What Do We Check & How?
Raptor’s SEO audit tool crawls a site and extracts the contents of all the meta description tags it can find. If the tag contains more than 160 characters of text (including, numbers, spaces, punctuation, and special characters) we define the page to have a ‘long meta description’.
A page will need to be canonical and the meta description tag will need to be correctly implemented in the source code for it to show in the ‘canonical pages’ section of the SEO Errors tab.
We present the data for this in the reporting tabs and SEO audit charts within our software. The raw data is also available to download from the export tab within reporting, where you can get both CSV and XLXS files for any project or site.
Because these checks are performed exclusively on canonical pages, if a long meta description is found on a non-canonical page it would not be flagged as an error here. You will be able to see all long meta description pages under the ‘meta description’ category in the SEO Errors report.
What should you do with this data?
You can use our software to identify long meta descriptions across your site and you can use that data to:
- Re-write meta descriptions of affected pages
- Improve the organic visibility of the affected pages
- Provide the list of long meta description pages to a client
- Count & review SEO issues on a website