How to write a good meta description tag

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html acronymThe meta description is a special tag placed within the source code of your webpages. It’s used by search engines and directories to help understand what your page is about.

Sometimes, they’re also used as your “snippet” on the search engine results page.

The tag, placed between the <head> and </head> section, looks like this:

<meta name=”description” content=”your content here”>

As suggested by Google’s Webmaster Central Blog, here are the best practices about using meta descriptions:

  • Each page of your website should have a unique meta description
  • It should contain a factual statement about the content on the page, not already mentioned in the page title
  • The description should be easy to read

Here is the actual meta description from this article, which supports the promise made in the page’s title:

<title>How to write a good meta description tag | FIND the CLIENT</title>
<meta name=”description” content=”Short article on how to write this important HTML code, and why writing good meta descriptions are worth the extra effort.”>

Well-written meta descriptions are preferred because they give users a clear idea of the page’s content. It’s important to note that while good meta descriptions can improve click through on the search engine results page, they don’t affect your natural rankings.

Your meta descriptions do not have to be solely in sentence format – it’s OK to follow a clearly defined formula listing data about the page. For example, a website about books could include the title of the book as the page title, and a description about the content of the book:

<title>Playing For Pizza: A Novel</title>
<meta name=”description” content=”Author: John Grisham, Publisher: Doubleday, Category: Fiction, Price: $21.95, Pages: 272″>

Your meta descriptions need to be descriptive. Even though they’re not displayed to a user when viewing your webpage, they’re important enough to spend a few extra minutes on. They could help improve the quality of your snippet — leading to more and better user traffic to your webpage.

Photo credit by svilen001.

2 thoughts on “How to write a good meta description tag

  1. Ben Snyder

    To Readers:
    Great article that describes one of several very important SEO techniques. What’s great for all of us is that by using a rock solid development framework or CMS like Drupal or Worpress, features like this come out-of-the-box.

    To the author:
    Brian, what do you think is the most effective and/or overlooked SEO technique? I think it might be getting the main content of the page as far up in the HTML code as possible and floating it in between sidebars or whatever using pro CSS techniques for display. Content is king! And Google seams to agree. Thoughts?

  2. Brian Farrell

    Frankly, I think the most effective, and overlooked, SEO technique is the use of relevance — not only in each content piece but the overall site as a whole.

    Keep it relevant, follow best practices, use WP or similar for your CMS, and you’ll probably be more optimized than most.

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