The Humble Meta Description


Attract Visitors in 150 Characters

Tell the world about your page or post content in one hundred and fifty characters: That is the power of the meta description HTML head markup. Search engines often use the meta description for a snippet of information to display in search results. The meta descriptions is the first impression a searcher gets about your content when looking through search engine results for required information.

Meta Description – Your Website Showroom

Meta Descriptions in GoogleA showroom, shop window, storefront display and media advertisement; meta descriptions should be used to the fullest.

Yet how often do web content creators ignore this useful tool. Content Management Systems like WordPress often do too much of the work for us, filling the meta description field with an extract from page content. Normally the description is extracted from the first paragraph, so unless we are really clever with our first paragraph, especially the first 150 characters from the paragraph, the result is a SERP snippet that poorly summarises the article content we want to draw people’s attention to.

Worse still, if a plugin has not been installed to extract this snippets, or the theme used doesn’t have this function (most do not – Thesis is one that does), the field is left out altogether.

Search Engine Ranking and Meta Descriptions

I have read many articles and heard SEO “specialists” lecture about “meta descriptions not being a factor for search engine ranking so why bother” and expressing similar opinions. On the one hand they are correct – Google and other major search engines don’t factor in meta descriptions for ranking purposes. But that is not the point.

SEO is not only about search engine spiders! At the end of the day the primary purpose of website optimisation is to get people to click-through to your website. A carefully considered meta description will definitely improve click-through rates. The other side of the coin; so what if your page gets placed on Google page 1 SERP if searchers ignore the link because the snippet displayed in the results lacks ‘sex appeal’. (Further Reading Meta Description Magic: Think Less about SEO & More about Click-Throughs – kissmetrics.com)

General Meta Description Guidelines:

Meta Description150 Characters: Describe the content in 150 words or as close as possible. In the past we often used to use as many as 240 to 260 characters for the meta description. Today this is pointless. Google will only use the first 150 (or close to 150) letters INCLUDING spaces and punctuation. Loading the meta description field with unnecessary baggage has no benefit, and who knows, in the future such overloading may be considered ‘description spamming’.

No Duplication: Do not duplicate meta description across content. Duplication of meta description is one of the reasons Google may decide not to use the meta description for a snippet. (Read more: Why Won’t Google Use My META Description? – seomoz.org)

Meta Description is not for Keywords: The meta description should NOT be a comma separated list of words. Meta descriptions must be “human readable”. The place for keywords is the meta keywords field! However, the primary key phrase should be included in the meta description, as well as in the first paragraph of content.

Meta Functionality for WordPress and Drupal

WordPress and Drupal users, add meta description fields to your websites and blogs. WordPress has some excellent SEO plugins for this purpose. I use “WordPress SEO by Yoast” on most of the WordPress sites I am managing.

For Drupal 7 “Meta Tags Quick” is lightweight and works well, and has been used on graphicline.co.za since it was created.

me on google plus+Mike Otgaar

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About Mike

Web Developer and Techno-geek Saltwater fishing nut Blogger

Posted on January 28, 2012, in SEO, TECH NOTES and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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