The Meta Description Tag, Truths, Myths and Bullet Points

Just as I did a quick rundown on the HTML Title Tag, so shall I do the same for it’s companion, the Meta Description tag. As the Title tag defines the main title of a page, the meta description tag provides a (hopefully brief) description of what the document is all about.

It lives in the <head> section of an HTML document, and yes, search engines do use. No, they don’t use it to determine where your site should rank in search results, but it’s often the exact text that they show on their search results pages. It’s the black text in the example below.

screen capture of the ClickNathan search result on Google

Like the Title Tag, this is another bit of free advertising you get in life. When a user does a search, the first factor is which sites show up high on the search results list. The second is probably the Title Tag, as they scan for a title that seems like it covers what they’re looking for. And the third, is this little bit of text you get to use to say “Hey, this is what this page is all about! Come check it out.” It should typically only be about 20 words long or so (or it’ll just get cut off by search engines).

The Meta Description serves no other purpose than this. Don’t cram it full of keywords, nobody will care. Keep it short and to the point, and make certain it tells people what they’re going to find when they get to your page (and then deliver on that).

Up Next: How to Write a Great Title Tag