The description meta tag is an html tag, defined inside the head section of an html or web page and it defines a human readable description about the contents of the web page. This is a much more detailed description of the page when compared to the title tag of the page. So, ideally a web page will have a title tag and also a description meta tag, each of which does the job of accurately describing the page content.
There are several different factors that affect the SEO of the webpage: the webpage content, the title tag, the meta description tag and back links from other domain ranking among being the most important. Apart from having relevant and well written content, you should first optimize the title tag of the webpage. The other relevant things you can do to improve your search engine ranking include optimizing your image tags and working on getting more backlinks to your webpage.
Meta Description Tag Syntax
The meta tag is specified inside the header (ie. <head> ) section of a webpage. Many HTML editors and blog frameworks provides a easy to use text area boxes where this can be created.
<title> The web page title goes here <title/>
<meta name="description" content="This accurately describes the contents of this web page"/>
The above example shows you how the title tag and the meta tags including meta description tag is defined in the source of a webpage. Depending on your familiarity with HTML, you may or may not have seen or edited these tags in the “raw“. You can use the user friendly interface provided by the framework to edit these as well.
Advantages of a Good Description
There are several advantages in terms of SEO, if you have a good description meta tag on your web pages.
SERP: The description is displayed in the search engine result pages (SERP) along with the title of the page. A well written description can thus catch the eye of the user and get a visit from the user thus increasing the click-thru rate.
Ranking in Search Engines: It is not very clear as to how much importance is given by various search engines. There is much controversy about a direct influence in Google search results. There are other search engines that could give more importance to the description tag. Either way, you can argue that it does affect the ranking indirectly by increasing your CTR.
How to Write a Good Description
In spite of all the various suggestions, it best serves to create a description tag with out taking into consideration the influence of the search engines. First, create a description for the user who is reading the content and then tweak that description slightly to make it search engine friendly. Regardless, here are a few tips you can keep in mind ….
Length: The length of the description should around 150 to 160 characters or so. Again the common belief (or myth as you may see it) is that you should keep your description below 160 characters or so, so that Google and other Search engines can show them fully without truncating it. This is not entirely true, mainly for three reasons…
- Google and other search engines do index the entire description even if it is more than 160 characters, even though they choose to display only a certain part of it.
- Search Engines, especially Google decides dynamically as to what snippet needs to be shown based on the search query. This means your description may or may not be shown as you have written it. A snippet from with in the content might be shown instead.
- Sometimes, if there are more 160 characters, Google shows a snippet from within the description that best matches the search query. This can be quite useful when targeting multiple keywords or phrases.
Relevance: The description should accurately describe the contents of the page. It should also elaborate on the title tag as well. The description kind of act as a detailed title that draws the user to click on the link to read the entire content.
Keywords: The description should contain your keywords at least once. You should also use variations or synonyms of the keywords if applicable, more so to avoid keyword stuffing if not anything else. If there are alternate search keywords, then they could also be used. Avoid keyword stuffing at all costs, it will not only raise flags with the search engine but also will also deter users from clicking on the link. A good rule of thumb is to use your keyword towards the starting of the description as to gain more weight in indexing and also to make sure that it is displayed even when truncated.
Human Readable: Make sure that the entire description is easy to be read by the users. This means making sure that the sentences are grammatically and semantically correct. Don’t do things like omitting words or word separators (eg: and, or, the etc) so as to save on character count.
There are some plugins that provide support for description tags. These plugins makes it easy to provide a description tag as and when you edit your blog posts, right from the edit page. Some also provide support to
Add Meta Tags: This plugins adds several meta data tags including the description meta tag to the pages and posts on your blog. It gives some flexibility in creating custom description for each of the page types such as pages, posts, front page, attachments and archives.
Simple Meta Tags: This is another plugin that allows you to easily modify the description meta tags for your posts and pages. Though it is not as flexible and feature rich as the Add Meta Tags plugin, it is simple and easy to use.
WordPress SEO : This plugin provides a lot more than the support for meta description tags. It attempts to tackle a whole lot of the SEO functions such as the sitemaps, social network integration, keyword analysis in addition to the support for meta tags.