The Meta Description Story

I strongly believe that every web developer should have at least a basic knowledge about SEO. Let me introduce you your next best SEO/SERP friend: the Meta Description tag. While it’s probably (technically) the easiest part of your SEO plan, there are guidelines and best practices.

What is the Meta Description tag?

In one sentence, it is a compact summary of the page content, used to describe the web page. It is used by search engines to display snippets of text on the search engine results pages (SERP), which makes it a lot easier for users to choose the site they want to visit.

Wait, no ranking factor? No. Basically meta descriptions don’t directly affect your page’s ranking. It’s best viewed as the first contact point for organic search users with your site. Treat your meta descriptions well and you’re treating your potential visitors well.

Let’s see an example:

 

Meta Description displayed on a Google SERP page

The text below the link comes from the Meta Description of Apple’s Mountain Lion page.

What’s the importance of it?

As stated in the last paragraph, it’s the first opportunity to show possible visitors that your page is worth visiting.  A good summary on the SERP page can help with user click rate which grows the number of visitors.

Also meta description is used by most social platforms like facebook and google plus when sharing your page!

What if I don’t provide it?

No problem, the search indexers are clever beasts, they’ll just use some “random” part of your page as the summary. Are you sure you want that?

We’ve all seen search results like this…

An example of bad SERP summary

You can clearly see that there are menu entries, etc. in the summary.

Would you click it? I doubt.

So how do I add it on my page?

That’s quite easy. Insert a snippet like this into the ‘<head>’ section of your page:

<meta name="description" content="I want this to be displayed in SERP summaries">

What are Meta Description best practices?

They should:

  • be fairly unique for every page
  • be short and simple. Don’t make the visitor think!
  • be useful for the visitor, it should tell what the user can expect after clicking = high quality description of the target page
  • contain targeted keywords, which can possible match the search query keywords (see the above image for highlighted matches!)
  • be written in the same manner as text ads! Actually they will be competing with google SERP advertisements.
  • be of around max. 160 characters - most search engines will cut the text above tihs.
  • not repeat the page title.
  • be honest. This goes hand in hand with usefulness.

 

That’s all, folks. If you have any additions, corrections, insights, opinions, please don’t hesitate to use the comment box below!

Also if you found this post a bit useful, please take some time spreading the word - use the social sharing icons below.

 

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