Ultimate Guide to SEO: Meta Description

Written by Mark Sanborn: Jul 14, 2008

The meta description effects how search engines will show snippets of your site and effects how your visitors will determine to visit your site based on its description. It is definitely directly related to the chance your site will get clicked. Google chooses its snippets based on many different things, but we can control some of them through writing an effective meta description

To get the most out of this article check out, Ultimate Guide to SEO: Series.

Improving the meta description will help you get click through from the Google page, but they won’t effect your ranking.

What is the Meta Description?

The meta description is a short description of what that page is about. It is put in the Meta tag near the top of the page and is sometimes used when a search engine shows a link to your site. Here is an example of one:

meta description

Adding a Meta Description to your site

To add a meta description to your pages you will need to add line between your tags.

<META NAME="Description" CONTENT="Description goes here...">

Making a good Meta Description that is HUMAN friendly

Google could really care less what your snippet looks like. They will always take other bits of text for the snippet if you can’t come up with a good one; however, if we really want to get our link clicked on we are going to have to make the description human readable and interesting.

When someone types in a search term in Google and hits go there are two things that will influence a user’s decision to click on your link. The first will be the order in which the links are laid out. Since most people read from top to bottom the higher links will usually get more attention. Google claims that most people will scan the site snippet before clicking. This is where we will separate our pages from some of the competition.

Users will scan a snippet but they are not going read it in detail. It has to be scanable. It also has to be something that is descriptive and complements the title but without repeating or having duplicated keywords. One of the most common problems with meta descriptions is that many sites either have the same one for every page or don’t even use them at all.

I think the two main ingredients for successful use of the meta description is to:

Have a different meta description for each page Use PHP or other script to generate them

W3C doesn’t specify the size of this description meta tag, but almost all search engines recommend it to be shorter than 200 characters of plain text.

References

Improve snippets with a meta description makeover

Need to print shipping labels on your site?

Checkout my product RocketShipIt for simple easy-to-use developer tools for UPS™ FedEx™ USPS™ and more.

Share: