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Google SEO: Make use of the “description” meta tag

Summaries can be defined for each page

A page’s description meta tag gives Google and other search engines a summary of what the page is about (1). Whereas a page’s title may be a few words or a phrase, a page’s description meta tag might be a sentence or two or a short paragraph. Google Webmaster Tools provides a handy content analysis section that’ll tell you about any description meta tags that are either too short, long, or duplicated too many times (the same information is also shown for <title> tags). Like the <title> tag, the description meta tag is placed within the <head> tag of your HTML document.

 


Brandon's Baseball Cards - Buy Cards, Baseball News, Card Prices



(1) The beginning of the description meta tag for our homepage, which gives a brief overview of the site’s offerings.

What are the merits of description meta tags?

Description meta tags are important because Google might use them as snippets for your pages. Note that we say “might” because Google may choose to use a relevant section of your page’s visible text if it does a good job of matching up with a user’s query. Alternatively, Google might use your site’s description in the Open Directory Project if your site is listed there (learn how to prevent search engines from displaying ODP data). Adding description meta tags to each of your pages is always a good practice in case Google cannot find a good selection of text to use in the snippet. The Webmaster Central Blog has an informative post on improving snippets with better description meta tags.

Google_SEO-Metatags_1
Google_SEO-Metatags_2
(2) A user performs the query [baseball cards]. Our homepage appears as a result, with part of its description meta tag used as the snippet.

Words in the snippet are bolded when they appear in the user’s query (2). This gives the user clues about whether the content on the page matches with what he or she is looking for. (3) is another example, this time showing a snippet from a description meta tag on a deeper page (which ideally has its own unique description meta tag) containing an article.

Google_SEO-Metatags_3
Google_SEO-Metatags_4
(3) A user performs the query [rarest baseball cards]. One of our deeper pages, with its unique description meta tag used as the snippet, appears as a result.

Accurately summarize the page’s content

Write a description that would both inform and interest users if they saw your description meta tag as a snippet in a search result.

Avoid:

  • writing a description meta tag that has no relation to the content on the page/li>
  • using generic descriptions like “This is a web page” or “Page about baseball cards”
  • filling the description with only keywords
  • copying and pasting the entire content of the document into the description meta tag

Use unique descriptions for each page

Having a different description meta tag for each page helps both users and Google, especially in searches where users may bring up multiple pages on your domain (e.g. searches using the site: operator). If your site has thousands or even millions of pages, hand-crafting description meta tags probably isn’t feasible. In this case, you could automatically generate description meta tags based on each page’s content.

Avoid:

  • using a single description meta tag across all of your site’s pages or a large group of pages

Glossary

Domain
An address on the Internet that indicates the location of a computer or network. These are administrated to avoid duplication.

Open Directory Project (ODP)
The world’s largest volunteer-run web directory (a list of Internet links collected on a large scale and then organized by category).

Snippet
Text displayed beneath the title of a corresponding web page on the search results pages of a search engine. A web page summary and/or parts of the page that match the search keywords will be displayed.

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3 Responses

  1. Click This Link
    |

    Awesome post.

  2. social media marketing for beginners
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    Make sure the content is grammatically perfect, has a simple and easy to understand style, entices the reader,
    and remains grounded in facts instead of hyperbole.
    Many people spend countless dollars on entertainment,
    sports or hobbies, but finding resources for an online business seems to elude them.

    Most of the things you think you know about search-engine optimization, or SEO, may have been true a few years ago but have changed.

  3. Stuart Mackey
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    Thanks for the article. So many people spend all their effort on body copy, and not enough on things like descriptions and summaries. To be redundant, I some times make my first paragraph an alternate description, so when they land on the page their aren’t “deceived” into thinking they’ve had a bait and switch. I think the generally public assumes that the description is a part of the article/page extracted from the body by Google.

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