There seems to be some confusion about what a Meta Description tag is and what it can be used for. Furthermore, there a lot of confusion about whether or not there is any SEO benefit to using the Meta Description tag. I will try to clear up that confusion today.
Like the Title tag, the Meta Description tag appears in the head section of an HTML document, between theand tags. It is used by the search engines, along with the Title tag, to show searchers in the search results what a particular web page is about. It looks like this:
Keep Your Meta Description The Right Length
The most important thing to remember about your Meta Description tag is to keep it below 160 characters. Some SEOs say keep it below 150 characters. Generally, the search engines will show a snippet – your Meta Description – below the Title in the search results that is no more than 160 characters. So if you write a long description, then chances are it will be cut off and the reader will only read a part of it. Keep it at the optimal length and you can describe your web page fully to site visitors while ensuring that Google doesn’t cut off your description.
Search Engine Policies Regarding Your Meta Description Tag
While the search engines may use your Meta Description, they do not guarantee that they will. They can also get the search snippet for your web page from within the page content or from your Open Directory listing, if you have one.
One way to encourage the search engines to use your Meta Description is to include your keyword phrase – the one you want to rank for – somewhere in the Meta Description. This is not a guarantee that your description will be used, but there is a higher chance that it will be used if it is relevant to the web page and it will help a searcher know what your web page is about – especially regarding a specific type of search query.
Another important thing to understand about Meta Descriptions is that they are not used for ranking purposes. No matter how good you are at writing them, the search engines will not rank your website on the basis of your Meta Description. If it is used, it is used only as a snippet in the search results to describe what your web page is all about.
Meta Description Tags Are Not Always Necessary
You may sometimes want to avoid writing a Meta Description altogether. If your web page can be found for multiple relevant keyword phrases – especially multiple relevant keyword phrases of three words or longer – then it might be best to let the search engines choose the relevant on-page text to use as a search snippet. If you try to force the Meta Description, you could hurt your rankings for relevant key phrases.
Some professional SEOs advise to never write Meta Description tags. Others advise to always write them. They are most relevant when your web page targets specific keyword phrases where the Meta Description can be used to present the perfect search snippet for those specific key phrases.
The Most Important Meta Description Error To Avoid
The one thing you want to avoid is using the same Meta Description on multiple pages of your website. This will confuse the search engines and may result in none of those pages being indexed. It could lead to duplicate content issues even if the on-page content of each page is different. Try your best to write a distinct Meta Description for every page on your website. If you cannot, then don’t write a Meta Description for those pages that don’t deserve their own unique description.