How to Write Meta Descriptions for Local SEO

What are meta descriptions?

A meta description is a short snippet of text that appears in the search engine results page (SERP) below the title tag of a webpage. The purpose of a meta description tag is to provide a brief summary of a web page’s content. This helps both users and search engines by adding context to what the page is about.

Meta descriptions are not a ranking factor for search engines, but they can influence the click-through rate (CTR) of a webpage by enticing users to click on the listing. For this reason, they’re an important element of on-page SEO, and can help generate more traffic for local businesses.

Why meta descriptions matter for Local SEO?

Meta descriptions are particularly important for local businesses because they can help search engines understand the relevance of a webpage to a specific location. For example, if a local restaurant includes the name of their city in the meta description of their homepage, it will be easier for search engines to understand that the restaurant is located in that city and should therefore be shown to people searching for restaurants in that area.

In addition to helping search engines understand the location of a business, meta descriptions also play a role in influencing the CTR of a webpage. A compelling and descriptive meta description can entice users to click on a listing in the SERP, which can lead to more traffic and potentially more customers for the business.

Meta description examples

The meta description of a web page can be found left-clicking, selecting the View page source code option, and searching the document for the description meta tag attribute.

An example of a meta description found in the source code

In the example above from a top ranking personal injury lawyer in Phoenix, Arizona, you’ll notice that the title tag contains the keyword / close variation and the brand.

Below are some common meta description formats for Local SEO:

  • At brand name, we’ve provided keyword / service to location and surrounding areas since founding date. Insert USP. For example: At Master Flow Plumbing, drain cleaning to Phoenix, Arizona, and surrounding areas since 1998. Request a free estimate online or view discounts online.
  • The keyword at brand name in location have social proof. Insert USP. For example: At Bradford Law Firm, our personal injury lawyers have won thousands of cases with a 99% success rate. Request a free case evaluation.

Pro Tip: Including social proofing that establishes credibility and a unique selling proposition (USP) wins can help improve click-through rates (CTR). Forms of social proofing include the founding date, number of projects completed, or review count / number of satisfied customers. Examples of USPs include free offers, discounts, or other incentives that can help generate clicks and covert customers.

How to optimize meta descriptions for Local SEO

Follow these best practices to optimize meta descriptions for local SEO:

  • Add target keyword – This helps search engines and users determine if your page is relevant
  • Add target location – Helps search engines understand where you provide service(s)
  • Mention your brand – Build brand awareness and trust with customers by the brand name
  • Meta description length – Limit length to under 160 characters (avoids truncation)
  • Provide value – Aim to provide value by establishing credibility and highlighting relevant offers
  • Use unique meta descriptions – Helps users and search engine differentiate between pages

Meta descriptions are an important element of on-page SEO, and they are especially relevant for local businesses looking to improve their search engine rankings. By including the name of your business and location in the meta description and using modifiers and primary keywords, you can help search engines understand the relevance of your website to a specific location and improve your chances of ranking in the SERP.

Note: You can use the Surfer SEO Audit feature to get helpful insights for writing and optimizing meta descriptions.

Once optimized, you can use this Local SEO checklist to identify other helpful action items.

Case study and findings

I recently analyzed 100 top ranking local businesses in the St. Louis area, and here’s what I found…

# of title tag that contains keyword95%
# of title tag that contains location74%
# of title tags containing keyword AND location72%
Average title tag length142

📝 Note: All data was pulled from the source code of each top-ranking site.

📊 Conclusion: Unsurprisingly, a large amount (72%) of top-ranking sites have both the target keyword and location in their page’s meta description. Additionally, the average meta description length was 142 characters. Based on the results, we can infer that there is likely correlation between these elements and rankings.

Additional considerations

Updating or changing meta descriptions tags can impact click-through rates and rankings. Because of this, it’s recommended to track rankings with a tool like SEMrush’s rank tracker (get a 14-day free trial) and LocalViking‘s GeoGrid reports to understand the impact of any changes made.

Additionally, there are other on-page factors to consider, which are often updated alongside meta descriptions. This generally includes title tags and headings, but can also include other page elements like URLs, open graph, image optimization, and site navigation.