SEO: Why Meta Description Is Still Important

by Klaus on July 30, 2009

in Search Engine Optimization, Web Development

By now you may have heard several times from search engine experts, that “meta tags” are not as important any longer as they used to be. While that’s especially true for “meta keywords”, as they were simply being abused too much, meta description is still important to maintain in your website pages. Let me explain why…

If meta description is not available on your page, Google and other search engines will use some text from that particular page and display those few lines under your page title in the search result. That may not be too bad in most cases, but you don’t really have a saying when deciding which lines should be shown there, and in worse case, it will show some text completely irrelevant to the content of your page.

By using the meta description tag, you get to decide what the users will see below your page title, when you show up in their searches. The content of the meta description tag is not visible on your site though, only in the SERP (Search Engine Result Page).

Let’s take a look at what the meta description looks like from a web developers point of view – or if you put on your “I’m a Google spider bot”-glasses. Here’s the one I currently use for the frontpage of TechPatio:

<meta name=”description” content=”TechPatio is your free source for tech news regarding Apple, iPhone, Mac, Firefox, Safari, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and other gadgets. TechPatio – tech news the easy way!” />

And here’s how it looks in a Google search result (it only displays about the first 160 characters):

TechPatio meta tag description in google search result

To be honest, that’s not really the best meta description out there. I will certainly need to improve it – here’s why…

Meta Description Is Content
That’s right. Meta description is used to define/explain the content of your page, so it’s important not to ignore them. Even better, see if you can add a few of your targeted keywords to your meta descriptions as well, because…

Bold Keywords
Take a look at the screenshot above once more time. You will notice that “TechPatio” is bold, both in the title and in the description. That’s because I searched for “techpatio”. Bottom line, if your search keyword(s) show up in the meta description, they will become bold. Some experts say that users are more inclined to click those results with bold keyword(s). Makes sense to me.

Sell Your Page In 160 Characters Or Less
As already mentioned, when using meta description you get to decide what the user will see below your page title in the search results. Use the meta description to “sell your page” to the user, making him want to come and visit your site. By ignoring the meta description and trust that Google will provide the right “sales pitch” for you, is probably a long shot. It might be even better to just put a meta description that says “Nothing to see here, mosey along now…” instead – I’d click one of those… just like I’d push red buttons that says “DO NOT PUSH!”.

Let me bottom line it for you, by giving you some great free tips:

  • Write a meta description no longer than 160 characters (spaces included). Everything besides 160 chars will not be shown.
  • Put some of your targeted keywords in each meta description once or twice.
  • Use a different meta description for each of your pages. No need to write a sales pitch for your “Contact Us”-page, etc.

And now I will sit back and wait until a hacker sends me an e-mail with the subject “Do not open this e-mail!” with a virus attached…. Oh, wait, I’m on a Mac. No worries then. Moosey along now, but remember to subscribe to TechPatio first!

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Comments & Leave a Comment

comments

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Benjamin Cip July 31, 2009 at 00:49

Hey, that’s really a nice post here, people tend to forget how important are Meta descriptions. I’m sure your post will be beneficial for many people.
.-= Benjamin Cip´s last blog ..How To Become A Dot-Com Mogul =-.

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Christie July 31, 2009 at 12:12

This is something I really need to address for my site, but I’d never seen a clear explanation of what to do with it until now. Thanks – now I intend to check out Beginners Guide…part 1!

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Klaus @ TechPatio July 31, 2009 at 12:22

@Benjamin,
Thanks for your comment. It’s really not a lot of work to write 160 chars or less, so it’s stupid not to put just a little bit of effort into it 🙂

@Christie,
Since you use the Thesis theme, you should already have some pretty good standard SEO setup, I believe (I’ll use Thesis also in a few weeks, downloaded it already). But your current meta description for your frontpage ain’t too good: “About health, pets, and general life” – you can put a lot more text than that, and try to sell your page a little better. Results can’t be promised so your mileage may vary, but I’m sure you can do it a bit better now that you know of it 🙂

I really need to start working on part 2 of the Beginners Guide to SEO. Thanks for reminding me.

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Tech-Freak Stuff July 31, 2009 at 13:45

I totally agree! I know that SE experts say that meta tags have no authority in Google algorithm, but just ask them to stop using the All in One SEO plugin on their Wordpress blogs and you can see their weird reaction!
.-= Tech-Freak Stuff´s last blog ..What is encrypted code in Wordpress themes? =-.

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Greten September 14, 2009 at 22:44

This is what I know at first, but I noticed recently that Google sometime ignore the meta description altogether and still displays some random phrases in your site as if there’s no meta description.
.-= Greten´s last blog ..Preventing certain posts from appearing in WordPress search results =-.

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Klaus @ TechPatio September 15, 2009 at 09:05

I’ve noticed the same actually, but I can’t say for sure if it’s just because Google ignores it (and for what reason) or if it’s simply because meta description were not added at the time the page were indexed. I often add my meta descriptions a little later after having made the post, but then it might already have been indexed by google (seen it a few times, that’s why I can’t say for sure what the reason might be).

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Software Company March 9, 2010 at 07:44

Yes, You are right. Meta Description provides a concise explanation of a Web page’s content. This allows the Web page authors to give a more meaningful description for listings than might be displayed if the search engine was unable to automatically create its own description based on the page content.

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