Let’s get one thing out of the way; Google etc do not use the meta description tag for ranking purposes. Content is king, and the search engines (quite rightly!) no longer fall for keyword stuffing. What the meta description tag does do is give you the chance to write a sumptuous, inviting advert within the organic listings that can drastically improve click through rates.
The Meta Description Tag in Search Results
Here’s some golden rules, when generating your descriptions:
- DO NOT stuff it with keywords. As mentioned before, the meta description tag is not used for ranking. Let your words flow
- Be concise. You only have 25-30 words to play with, at which point your description becomes truncated with ‘…’. You’ll not be penalised for having more, but the neat freak in me loves an obviously crafted sentence or two.
- Be motivational. Together with your page title, this is your one and only chance to get people clicking through.
- Be relevant. Keep bang on topic!
- Be unique. No two pages should ever have the same meta description.
Leaving out the Meta Description Tag
Google will pull relevant content from your web page and display it as a snippet in the search results. Now, Google, being an automated process and not a human being, is very unlikely to choose the ideal content for the meta description tag. It hunts through for relevant keywords and snatches the text from either side, which may appear out of context in relation to the service or products you are selling.
The Meta Description Tag may be overridden by Google
If there is a passage of text within your body copy that Google thinks is more relevant, it will be used. This very much depends on the search query used; if you have a page of text that talks about plumbing, with an excerpt near the end about bathroom fitting, someone searching ‘bathroom fitting’ will more than likely receive the relevant text in the meta description.
The Meta Description Tag Code
<META NAME=”Description” CONTENT=”An inviting write up, describing your products, services and obviously the big savings”>
This goes in between the <head></head> tags and should, where possible, be unique to each page.
Mass Meta Description Tag control in a CMS
If you are using a CMS, there are a number of plugins available that will snatch the first few lines of the body copy and use it as the meta description. Whilst this isn’t ideal, if you have hundreds or thousands of pages, the last thing you are going to do is painstakingly set the meta description tag for each and every one.
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