SEO FYI: Much Ado About Meta Description Tags
To meta tag or to not meta tag. The debate on the HTML meta tags’ relevance and usefulness in search engine optimization continues. According to Search Engine Watch, we witnessed the demise of the meta keyword tag years ago. But does the meta description tag still have merit? While the optional meta tags, on their own, are not the magic bullet to page-one rankings in search engine results pages (SERPs), they do tell the search engines and searching humans what’s on your web page. So let’s take a quick look at what they are and why they matter so much.
What’s a meta tag anyway?
What's meta? The Urban Dictionary explains that the word “meta” is an adjective used to describe something that is characteristically self-referential e.g., metadata is data that provides data about other data. So using this definition, meta description tags describe the descriptions of a web page.
Confused? Let’s simplify:
Meta tags are HTML codes that are placed between the open and closing head tags in the HTML code of a web document. While the text in these tags is not visible to searching humans, it tells the browsers (or other online services, like Facebook and LinkedIn) specific information about the page. It simply, explains the page so browsers can understand it
Meta Description Tags explained:
Here's an example of meta description tag in HTML:
Meta descriptions should be no longer than 155 characters (including spaces). The “description” meta tag helps websites in these important ways:
- Helps search engines understand your pages’ content: a good description with one or two keywords is necessary so that search engine understand your page’s content.
- Helps searching humans understand your pages’ content: A well-written description not only tells users what is on your page, but also should lure them to your site. The meta description is what shows up with the search terms highlighted:
- Can you leave a meta description blank? Sure. When there's no description tag, Google and Bing will pull it based on the balance of the page's content. Sometimes (especially for blogs) you may prefer Google's or Bing's version. They usually select the first sentence of the first paragraph. Better to write your own compelling keyword-rich description to entice the visitor to click through to your site.
Get meta, get found
While meta description tags may not be the miraculous solution for page-one results, working algorhymically with other SEO elements they still play a highly important role toward helping your site get found. Describe those descriptions: get meta with your metas!
Martine Hunter is the creative director of inbound marketing with the Atlanta advertising agency, MLT Creative, which specializes in B2B marketing. She holds the Inbound Marketing professional certification and serves the Atlanta chapter of the Business Marketing Association as president of the board of directors.