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The Meta Description

Use the Meta Description for SEO and Search Results

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What is the Meta Description

The meta description is a meta tag that is used to describe the current Web page. It provides a short summary of the page so that readers can decide whether the page is what they are looking for or looks interesting.

The meta description is used by search engines to describe the Web page in their results. If your page doesn't have a good meta description, it still could display near the top of the results, but the listing will just grab content from your page, which can end up with a link that no one clicks on.

How Long Should the Meta Description Be?

While there is no limit on how long you can make your meta description, the longer that it is, the more likely it will be cut off in the search engine results. In several tests, I found:

  • Google started cutting off descriptions after 155-160 characters.
  • MSN started cutting off descriptions after 175-180 characters.
  • Yahoo! started cutting off descriptions after 160-165 characters.

So, your meta description will have the most impact if it is 160 characters or less in length, including spaces and punctuation. You can write longer descriptions, but keep the most important part in the first 150-160 characters.

How to Write a Meta Description

It's easy to write a meta description. Simply use the meta HTML tag with the name="description" and the content="" your description text. For example, the meta description for this page is:

<meta name="description" content="The meta description is a meta tag that describes your Web page. By using the meta description, you add a short description to your Web pages that is displayed by search engines when your page shows up in search. It's a simple tag to add to your pages, but adds a lot of value. Learn how to use the meta description tag.">

When you're writing your meta description, keep in mind the following tips:

  • Do accurately describe the resulting page. You're trying to get people to click through to your page. The description won't impact your search ranking.
  • Do include tagged facts about the page like the author, date written, or other information. This gives visitors very relevant information about the page that might not otherwise be displayed.
  • Do write high quality descriptions. Just because the content isn't displayed on your Web page doesn't mean that people won't see it.
  • Don't repeat information that is in the page title. Since it's already in the title, it adds no value.
  • Don't include your site name or URL. This is in the URL of your site, and again adds no value.
  • Don't use excessive punctuation. Stick with periods and commas and nothing else.
  • Don't repeat descriptions over multiple pages or use programmatically generated descriptions.

As I said above, the meta description won't impact your search ranking, but it can definitely impact whether people click on your page in search or not. By having a quality page description for every page on your site, you will be sure that people will see your pages in the results and want to click on them.

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