How Important is the Meta Description?
How do you use your website's Meta Descriptions?  I have found three broad categories for answers to that question.
  1. I don't know how to use it so I don't
  2. We put our company tagline there for Marketing consistency.
  3. We write a unique description for each page.
If you answered similar to bullet number 3 above, then you are likely using your Meta Descriptions properly.

The Meta Description Marketing Opportunity

I like to approach the use of Meta Descriptions as a Marketing Opportunity, not as an SEO asset.  Search engines do not necessarily use the content of the Meta Description tag in any of their ranking algorithms, instead it is used as display in the Search Results Pages.  So how is this a marketing opportunity?  Think about the Meta Description as your last and best opportunity to convince a Google searcher to click on the link to your website page.  Your page appears in the search results, along with 10 other organic search results, as well as Pay Per Click ads.  The searcher has up to 15 listings to choose from.  The meta description you have carefully and skillfully crafted has the ability to influence and drive traffic to your website.

The SEO Value of Meta Description

Many reports and SEO experts indicate that the content of the meta description tag on your website pages is not used by Google or other search engines in their ranking formulas, so the content may be considered to little or no SEO value.  However, and this is important, click through rates on search engines are reported to be a ranking signal, on Google, and on Bing, perhaps on others as well.  An influential meta description therefore, which leads to higher click through rates, does actually contribute to SEO results.

Characteristics of Great Meta Tags

  • unique, each page on your website should have a meta description written specifically for that page
  • contains keywords early, words that match the search term will be bolded, if they appear early in the text, they will be more noticeable
  • 140 to 160 characters, the max visible characters depend on the character  width.  Keeping to 155 is a safe description length.
  • helpful, tell the searcher what they will find on the page

Sample Meta Tag Suggestions

Let's say you advertise your prices on your webpages.  Include your price and product name in the meta tag, especially if you have a sale price.  If your price is competitive, you will get more clicks than descriptions without prices. Do you have key industry stats on your page, include one in the description.  Stats drive interest, and curiosity, and clicks. Does your page include pictures or information about famous brands or people?  Make sure to include this early in the description.  People are drawn to familiarity. DO NOT try to make this a branding effort by including your company mission statement or other "company speak".  "We are company MLK, the world's leading industrial, commercial, residential high quality suppliers of gizmo style gadget for use with gadget MNO".  The preceding sentence is 145 characters (yes, spaces count) of useless drivel. EVEN WORSE: "Please visit the Home Page of Company MLK where you will find information all about our company, our products, and more information about our great staff."  While this hits the 155 characters on the head, there is nothing (other than company name) that would match up to a good search term.

Meta Description is an Ad

The description tag is a marketing opportunity.  Treat it as a 155 character ad for the page to follow.  What can you say in 155 characters that would be thoughtful, informative and compelling?  Go put that in your meta description!