Meta description tags get a bad rap. They are often either considered to be more valuable than they really are, or dismissed as near irrelevant. The truth is that the meta description can be useful but it's on the lower rung of importance when it comes to the on-page elements considered by the search engines. So while not a whole lot of time needs to be invested in creating workable description tags, I'll give you a few pointers on what you need to consider.
Each search engine gives the meta description varying degrees of weight, but overall there is not a whole lot of significance there. Where the meta description is most useful is in the SERPs. For many searches performed the meta description on the page will display just below the clickable title. This gives you a bit of branding and message control.
If you run PPC campaigns then you know the value of a good description on your ads. The meta description is really no different. Natural results are ads too! But in the natural results you get quite a bit more character space than with paid ads. This shows how valuable a good description can be, in conjunction with your title, in creating a compelling natural search ad.
Well, the construct of the meta description tag is fairly easy. You could probably write it in your sleep.
<meta name="description" content="Place your add description here." />
That's pretty much it. But a few things you need to know. Google will display anywhere from 145-155 characters (including spaces) and around 130 without spaces. Your mileage may very, but anything longer will get cut off. That doesn't mean your description can't be longer than that, just so long as you know anything beyond that won't be visible in the search results.
It doesn't matter where your meta description tag resides in your code, provided that it's in your
And, just like a good ad, it's important to use your keywords in the meta description. Don't stuff the description with keywords, but instead write a compelling sentence or two that reinforces the content of the page.
Finally, make sure all your descriptions are unique from one page to the next. Take the time to write original content, not cutting and pasting to save time. It's probably better to go without a description tag than to use duplicate tags throughout the site.
It's not always necessary to have a meta description tag on every page of your site. In fact, there are some instances when you probably don't want to use a meta description tag.
If you have a very focused page, targeting pretty specific keyword phrases, then write a great description for the page. On the other hand, if you're writing more generalized informative content around a single core term, content that is likely to appear in results for long-tail type keywords, then you may want to leave out your meta description.
The difference here is that if you don't have a meta description tag then the engines will display a snippet of your content. That snippet will be pulled from various parts of the page that use the words used in the actual search. If your page comes up with a long tail search your meta description may not provide the right information, namely the long tail keywords used in the search.
If you omit the description you have a much higher chance that the description that appears in the SERPs will be more relevant to the searcher that used long-tail search phrases. With a more relevant description you have a higher likelihood that the visitor will click through your site.
There really is not much to creating a good description tag. The two keys are writing unique text for each description to create, and knowing when not to use a description tag at all. These two bits of knowledge, implemented effectively, will help you achieve more click-throughs to, and hopefully better conversions on, your site.
Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.
If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.
Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.
Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.
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