Using the "META: Description" Tag in SEO

If you've done any work with web design, then you will no doubt be familiar with META tags. There are several of these, but this article focuses on only one; the Description tag. Next to TITLE and possibly "META: Keywords", the Description tag is the most important tag for your website for SEO.

If you aren't familiar with it, the Description tag falls within the section of your website. All your META tags do. Your META tags should go below your TITLE, but above your CSS, if you have used any.

All right, all right, you say; enough with the crash course in HTML. I know where the description tag should go; what should go in it? How is it used in SEO?

Description tags serve a double purpose. First, they're one of the first places a search engine looks for keywords, so of course it's important that you have your most important keywords there. It should be short; lengths vary, but fewer than 200 characters is generally a good bet.

The Description tag is not just another place to bulk up on SEO keywords, however. On many search engines, the description tag is what they'll show as your blurb when your website appears on their SERP (Search Engine Results Page). In other words, this may very well be a visitor's first contact with you. Which do you think the random surfer is more likely to click; a website with a concise, well-written description of the site, that just happens to contain the very keyword he was looking for, or one whose description is a meaningless jumble of keywords?

This, then, is the dual purpose of Description tags:

  • First, in SEO, to get your page ranked higher on the SERP by including your most important keywords in this prominent place.
  • Second, to attract visitors to your site by presenting them with a brief, well worded overview.

Be concise. Decide on your most important keyword, and use it at least twice. If you can't figure out how to include that keyword twice and still write an appealing description, then either find someone who can teach you, or hire someone to write the Description tags for you. Choose two or three other keywords that you feel are important, and include them once. Make sure you use standard spelling and grammar; you are basically looking to craft a short but compelling paragraph. First impressions count and this is your first impression to many, many people browsing search engine results. This is why your Description tag is so important, so write it well! Your SEO will thank you for it.

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