Creating Better Description Tags
The meta description tag is used to summarize a web page’s content. Search engines often use the meta description tag as the snippet of text displayed in the search results to provide the visitor with more information on what the page might be about before they click on it.
A well crafted summary outlining what visitor can expect to see on the page can give you a huge advantage against the other competing search results.
The main purpose of the meta description (other than to summarize the page) is to get the visitor to click your link from the search results. When a user is presented with a list of possible search result choices they often skim these snippets to see if clicking on the result is likely to contain the content that answers their question and is relevant to their search query.
The more descriptive and relevant a search result snippet is, the more likely that people will click through and be satisfied with the page they land on. Google
As such, use the meta description tag like a brief marketing message and a call to action that differentiates your search result listing from the others.
Does the Description Tag help a page rank on Google?
NO. meta descriptions do not directly influence Google’s ranking algorithms for normal web search.
However, an effectively written meta description can entice people to click through to your site, and those clicks do influence rankings. Use the Meta Description Tag for improved click-thru-rate (CTR) and not for Rankings.
The meta description tag of a webpage is not used by Google in their ranking algorithm (nor is the keywords meta tag). Google’s Ranking Signals Search Ranking Factors
Google doesn’t always use the Meta Description tag
Historically, search snippets came from three places. The content on the page OR the the meta description OR the DMOZ listing.
The content of the page is an obvious choice as the words extracted from the actual page may be a more reliable indicator as to what a visitor will see than the description of the page inside the meta description tag.
Having a meta description tag still provides you with a way of maintaining some input into how your webpage will be displayed in the search results. If your meta descriptions are not being picked up by Google then it could be that they are poorly written or determined to be less accurate than the words contained in the page.
If a page doesn’t have much textual content for snippet generation or the meta description is missing or unrelated to the page then Google’s fallback was to use the DMOZ listing of the web page as the snippet.
With DMOZ now closed, Google has stopped using its listings for snippeting, so it’s now a lot more important for you to provide good meta descriptions.
Google will sometimes use the meta description of a page in search results snippets, if we think it gives users a more accurate description than would be possible purely from the on-page content. Accurate meta descriptions can help improve your click through – Google Webmaster Central
A full list of Meta Tags that Google Understands
Meta Description Tag Tips
- Use them as a “Call to Action. They should make your search result stand out from the others and provide a compelling reason why you should click on your result.
- Use the core phrase. Include phrases people search for in your meta description tag. Google and other search engines often bold them in the displayed snippet when they match search queries.
- Make them relevant. They should be closely related to the name of the page (the Title Tag) yet serves to summarizes the content on the page.
- Consider Description length. The Description tag can technically be of any length however only the first ~160 characters can be displayed in the search results as the snippet (search engines generally truncate snippets that are too long using ‘…’ ). Place important phrases at the start of the Meta Description tag to ensure they appear.
- Unique per Page. Each webpage requires a different Meta Description tag from all others. No two pages should use the same description tag.
- Readable to Humans. They should read like a normal paragraph of text. A concise synopsis describing what the page is about. Don’t write them for search engine crawlers and don’t paste a bunch of keywords into the description tag.
Meta descriptions are important to get the click-through from the search results.
These short paragraphs essentially “advertise” your content and serve as a call to action.
Fun Fact –
You can actually stop snippets from being generated for your site by using the meta name=”nosnippets” tag. This prevents Google from displaying a snippet for your page in Search results.
Author: brad forster