Is there any limit either in total words or characters that you should use for the meta description? Someone within the company is looking to use the first paragraph of an article or 300 words, whichever is shorter. This seems excessive to me. Any guidelines?
There are certainly guidelines for this sort of thing, but no, there is really no limit. One of the biggest mistakes people make when thinking about SEO is that they believe there are certain hard and fast rules and if you don't follow them you will either get penalized or never see high rankings. Let me be the first to tell you that there are no real rules. No formulas. No magic words.
But as to the meta description tag, first know that most likely the words you put in that tag won't actually help you gain rankings in the search engines. This tag does serve a purpose, however. It's often a way to get a nice description of your page to show up in the search results if your page does rank highly. Your best bet is to write a succinct sentence or 2 which use the keyword phrases that sum up the article. If the first paragraph does that nicely, you could certainly put that into your meta description tag, but you wouldn't really gain any benefit from that, as the engines would probably pick up that "snippet" anyway, assuming it is using the keyword phrases people might find the page for in the engines.
For more info on this tag, please read my past newsletter article "Getting a Great Description."
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September 26, 2005
CEO and founder of High Rankings®, Jill Whalen has been performing search engine optimization since 1995 and is the host of the free High Rankings Advisor search engine marketing newsletter, author of "The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines" and founder/administrator of the popular High Rankings Search Engine Optimization Forum. In 2006, Jill co-founded SEMNE, a local search engine marketing networking organization for people and companies in New England.
High Rankings is an internationally recognized search engine optimization firm located in Framingham, MA specializing in search engine optimization, SEO consultations, in-house training, site audit reports, search marketing seminars and workshops. High Rankings has a 100% success rate for substantially improving client rankings and targeted traffic.
Jill speaks at national and international conferences and has been writing about SEO and search marketing since 2000. She's been quoted in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report and The Washington Post. Her articles have appeared in numerous print magazines and online websites including CIO Magazine, CMS Focus, The Internet Marketing Report, ClickZ, WorkZ, Inc.com, Entrepreneur, Lycos Small Business, WebProNews, SiteProNews and others. Jill has also appeared on many online and offline radio programs such as Entrepreneur Magazine's E-Biz Radio Show, SearchEngineRadio and the eMarketing Talkshow.
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