Why Use the Description Tag?
This topic best phrased as a marketing question, not a pure SEO question.  The description tag is best written by your marketing content experts, not your SEO guru or your webmaster.  Think of the description tag as a teaser ad about the content on your page. First, lets look at the description tag in a set of search results in the following screen capture of a search results page:   seo-description-tag-use In the image to the left, we have performed a search for the term "Buy Saskatchewan Art" on Google.com.  In the search results pages (SERPs) we see a number of results, the first organic ranking is for SaskArt.org.  The Title tag is displayed first in the results (1), followed by the page URL, then followed by the meta description tag (2).  In this example, the search phase is found in both the page title as well as in the description tag, and, in fact, is highlighted by Google to help users see the relevance to their search term.  The search results following the first place position are close to the original search term, but not an exact match.  

Two Advantages of the Description Tag

Description Tag as Teaser Ad

This example illustrates the two advantages of the Description Tag, and how it can benefit your digital marketing efforts.  First, let's consider that the other search results on the first page of Google are also relevant to the search term, as they are in the above example.  The searcher now has at a minimum, 10 results to select from, often more if there also ads positioned with the results.  You are competing against the other 10 search results on the page.  Your search listing needs to convince the searcher that yours is now the listing to click on, that that specific page on your site has the content they are seeking.  The meta description tag, as displayed on Google, gives you 156 characters to convince the searcher to now select your page, to select your content.  This is why your Marketing Department should write the description tag, it's a 156 character advertisement for your page.  Use it wisely.

Description Tag as SEO Keyword Consistency

Between your page content, your page URL, your page Title, and your meta description tag, you have an opportunity to provide a consistent message to both search engine users as well as search engines.  As part of your SEO strategy, choose the main idea of your page, and make sure you build in consistency between these elements.  It helps Google, and Bing, and others, understand what to expect on your page.  A strong match will improve your ability to show up in the search engines.

More Effective Meta Description Tactics

Here are a few more tactics to use in writing your meta description tag, to solicit a higher click through rate:
  1. ask a question to peak the curiosity of the searcher, a question they can only answer by reading your page
  2. say something controversial or surprising, give them the impression that what follows will be interesting
  3. quote a stat, tell them something they don't know to capture their attention

Description Tag Default Content

Don't leave the description tag on your pages blank, or you will leave it up to the search engines to choose what to display in the SERPs.  If your description tag is blank, or missing, search engines will pull snippets from your page, their best guess as to the content that matches the search query.  Take control of your online marketing and use the Description Tag to provide a reason to get clicked.