A Meta Description, or in some cases just called Description, is an HTML attribute (code) that is meant to provide a summary of what a web page is about. The Meta Description is often used by search engines on the results page as the description following a link.
Here is the Meta Description for what was once the Preation homepage (www.preation.com):
<meta name=”description” content=”Sign up for a free trial of Eden Platform, the lead generation system for small business websites. Eden helps you build a steady flow of qualified leads for your business at a low cost.” >
Why is the Meta Description important?
Years ago, search engines actually used the Meta Description to figure out what the page was about and the quality of the Meta Description determined the rank of the page in the search results. Today however, Meta Descriptions don’t affect rank, but what they do affect is how likely a user of the search engine might be to click on the link to your website. For example, when I search for “Preation” in Google, here is the result I see:
As you can see, the description of this link is taken directly from the Meta Description. When you write a good meta description it gives the search engine user context as to what the page is about. The better written the Meta Description is, the more likely that search engine user will click on your link and become a customer of your company.
Tips to writing successful Meta Descriptions:
- Keep it short. Try to keep the Meta Description less than 160 characters. As you can see from the example above, a longer description may get cutoff.
- Don’t use quotes. If you use a “ within your sentence, the major search engines will not display anything past the quote mark.
- Be unique. Don’t use the same Meta Description on every page of your site. Spend the time to tailor each page’s Meta Description to the content of that page. This way you will not end up in a situation where the search engine might show many results from your site, all with the same description.
- Use relevant keywords. Your Meta Description should use the words that really describe what the page is about. If your page has a recipe for chocolate-chip cookies, make sure you use “recipe” and “chocolate-chip cookies” in your Meta Description.
- Don’t add irrelevant info. Sometimes people try to be “sneaky” by adding content into the Meta Description that is exactly relevant to the page. Since the Meta Description really provides the first context to the search engine user as to what the page is about, you want to make sure you avoid creating confusion. Don’t talk about Peanut Butter Cookies in the Meta Description if your page is all about Chocolate Chip Cookies.