Three tips for using meta descriptions

June 04, 2024   Posted by: PX Product team

At and USAGov en Español, we’re always striving to make our content more useful to the public. Meta descriptions are one way we help people quickly find the government information they’re looking for.

A meta description is a short summary of the content on a web page and may appear below a page title link in a search engine result. It lets search engine users know immediately what they’ll find on that page so they can decide if they want to click on the link. Meta descriptions are coded into web pages and don’t show up on the pages themselves.

Search engine results include the meta description we created for’s government benefits section

Caption: Search engine results include the meta description we created for’s government benefits section.

You might find that adding meta descriptions can bring people to your agency’s websites. These three tips can help you get started.

Identify the most common words people use to search

We use web analytic tools, like Google Analytics, to find keywords to include in our meta descriptions. While meta descriptions don’t directly improve search engine optimization, they can help users find our content quickly.

Search engines’ algorithms often use a page's meta description in search results, but not always. Other times, they use snippets of text from the page that better match a user's search query. Knowing what words searchers use to locate information, and putting them in your meta descriptions, can increase the chances that search engines will use your meta descriptions. It can also boost your page’s popularity.

Write engaging meta descriptions

Engaging meta descriptions can entice searchers to click through to your content. We use active voice and include calls to action (“find,” “learn,” “see,” “know”). We also use natural and plain language and match the overall voice and tone of our websites. We base our meta descriptions on our page introductions but modify them to ensure they include keywords.

Create unique meta descriptions

It takes time and talent to craft a good meta description. When we redesigned our websites in 2023, our and USAGov en Español content designers and editors used analytics to identify the keywords for each page. Then, within a limit of 120 to 158 characters, we wrote unique meta descriptions for our sites’ 400+ web pages based on those keywords. 

As part of our content workflow, we now include meta descriptions when creating new pages. We study user data to help assess the meta descriptions’ effectiveness and update them during content reviews throughout the year.

About this Blog

USAGov, and work to make it easier for people to find information from their government about the services they need. Follow our journey and help us learn as we go. 

Discover more about:

Sign Up for Updates