What is the Description Meta Tag?
This tag is used to briefly describe what the web page is all about. A few things to keep in mind about the description meta tag which is used by most search engines.
- Limit the number of characters between the quotes for content to 150 characters. This includes spaces and commas.
- Include your best keywords on the page in the description. Make sure the sentences sound natural.
- Put the best keyword near the beginning of the description.
- Do not use too many keywords. You do not want to get tagged as a keyword stuffer by search engines.
- Use your web page title in the description.
- Only use numbers, alphabetic characters, commas, and spaces. Other characters will have an unpredictable effect.
- Do not use HTML tags.
A meta description is also known as description meta tag, seo description, and page description.
Description Meta Tag Example
Here is an example of where the description meta tag is placed in an HTML document (when you look at the source code of a web page).
<meta name="description" content="Your site summary here">
Description Meta Tag Use
Normally the meta tag is invisible to the user but on many search engines the description shows up on a search engine results page as a summary. Since a potential customer may see this it is imperative the description be accurate. Note that the meta description is not used in page ranking.
- Unique meta descriptions on each page of your site
- Show facts about the content on the page that are not represented in the title
- Make the description easy to read
- Dynamic sites can dynamically generate descriptive meta descriptions easily
- Make sure your descriptions are quality and represent the content on the page
<meta name="description" content="Machu Picchu is a 15th-century Inca site located...">
So, how do you unleash a click-through-compelling meta description?
Be Descriptive. The language in your meta description should introduce the user to what the page is about. In general terms, sketch out the page’s content. If the user is going to the trouble of clicking on it, he or she wants to make sure that the page really is about what they are interested in.
Be Persuasive. Great meta descriptions involve a touch of the persuasive. To get clicks, go ahead and tug a little bit. Some SEOs advocate using a call-to-action in the description. I’m not convinced that this is necessary; I do, however, recommend that you create a meta description that invites a response, even if it doesn’t directly call for it.
Inspire Curiosity. One of the most persuasive things you can do with your meta is to spark curiosity. This is particularly true for informational queries (as opposed to transactional queries). By the time a user finishes reading your description, they should be curious about what the page will say about the topic. You need to provide just enough information to explain what the page is about but not so much that it ruins the curiosity factor.
Use The Right Words. The keywords may not matter for search engines, but they do matter for users. In order to be compelled to click, the user needs to see relevant words. These words should be associated with his or her query. The right words in the right places make the difference between a SERP entry that gets overlooked, and a SERP entry that gets a click.
Make Them The Correct Length. If you write a meta description that is too long, Google will truncate it. The standard accepted length is 156 characters long. Unlike page titles, meta description cut-offs do not seem to be pixel-based in the same way that page titles are.
Do Not Use Double Quotation Marks. Google will cut them off. If you deem quotes to be important in your meta description, use single quote marks.
What if I don't include a meta description?
One will be chosen for you. Some bloggers and web site owners do not fill in meta descriptions and let the search engines decide what is best. I think this can be perilous and have unintended consequences so it is best do write a good description.
In the end, meta descriptions are still a worthy thing to focus on in your overall SEO efforts. At the very least, you shouldn’t neglect them — your meta description is the only thing standing between a search result and a visitor.
Google on page descriptions