The first thing that you need to know about the Meta Description Tag is that it no longer actually contributes to SEO or your Search Engine Results Page (SERP) rankings.
So why the title?
Because the meta description tag is still part of most SEO services, plug-ins, software packages, and discussions.
The Meta Description Tag is a statement describing the content of the webpage. It is not visible to website viewers (unless they know where to look), but is visible to search engines.
It makes up the content that usually appears on lines 2 & 3 (below the title) of your listing on the SERP. It is your first opportunity to “sell” to your potential visitor – definitely worth putting some time into.
To check the Meta Description Tags on your webpage (or on a competitors page):
1. From Firefox: On the Firefox navigation, go to Tools>Web Developer>Page Source (or hit Control U),
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you should see the HTML code for that page.The Meta Description code will look something like this:
See: Do-it-Yourself SEO Test for help in finding your source code in other browsers.
The image shows part of the Meta Description tag for this page (the full tag is too long for display), the complete meta description reads “Want more traffic & better targeted visitors to your website? We can help. Echelon SEO is a Search Engine Marketing agency. Schedule your free consultation!”
If you were to find an Organic search result for this page, it would look like this:
You can see that on the Search Engine Result for this page, the Meta Description tag appears on the second and third lines of the results.
Meta Description Best Practices
1. Your Meta Description tag should be unique for every page, and should include your primary keyword or phrase for that page. That keyword will appear bold when it is used as part of the search term.
It’s okay to duplicate that keyword a second time within the description, however don’t get carried away with repetition or you may find yourself being penalized by the Search Engines.
2. Your Meta Description tag can be up to 250 characters long (including spaces), but only the first 150 or so characters will be visible on the Search Results Page, so plan accordingly.
3. Finally, although the Meta Description tag is not SEO related, always remember that you are writing for a potential customer. It is a sales tool and should always be crafted as such – include a call-to-action when appropriate.
If your Meta Description tag is left empty, which happens surprisingly often, you’re leaving it up to Google to “sell” to the searcher – it will choose content from your website to display on the 2nd and 3rd lines of your listing on the Search Engine Results Page.
Your turn: What makes a good Meta Description Tag? Have you found something that converts especially well?
Thanks for reading. As always, your comments and questions are both welcomed and appreciated.