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Meta descriptions – the search engine result you write yourself

January 9th, 2009 by mdmcginnis

Unlike your page title, your meta-description tag won’t force search engines to use certain words to describe your Web page, but it lets you make a strong suggestion. If they don’t use the meta-description, Google “snippets” often include a section from your page with relevant search terms. But often they may use the meta-description as a standalone snippet. And you write that yourself – how cool is that?

Of course, if you have thousands of pages on your site, writing all their descriptions by hand is not very cool, but if necessary you can create unique meta-descriptions automatically using your CMS or blog scripts. For example, you could program your pages to use the first couple of sentences of your body text as part of the meta-description, plus a standard sentence of overall site description. Google Webmaster Tools has a content analysis section that can tell you if meta description tags and page title are too short, long, or too repetitious.

Some webmasters mistakenly believe that a keyword-laden meta-description is important for good search engine rankings. That’s a myth: the page title is most important, meta-keywords are least important, and meta-descriptions play only a minor role. Meta tags are not places for stuffing irrelevant keywords in hopes of fooling the Googlebot. That’s really just trying to fool your visitors, isn’t it? Including a string of keywords instead of a unique, accurate description is very 20th century. A description is supposed to describe your page accurately and skillfully. Of course, any accurate description includes the keywords that your visitors should be searching for.

From a search engine optimization perspective, adding good meta-description tags may not help your site much, but leaving them off may hurt your site a whole lot. Besides being required by state guidelines, they are also used by Google to determine which pages are worth crawling. If every page has the same title, meta-description, and meta-keywords, Google may decide to skip over them because they’re all identical. If a Web search brings up dozens of pages from your site, with the same description on each page, your visitors are going to have a hard time deciding which search result to choose. With good meta-descriptions, they won’t have to wonder.

Friday, January 9th, 2009 Future Projects, Search
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2 Comments to Meta descriptions – the search engine result you write yourself

  1. […] Make use of the “description” meta tag Good practices for description meta tags […]

  2. Search Engine Optimization according to Google | Aggie Webmasters on February 5th, 2009
  3. […] post: Meta descriptions – the search engine result you write yourself Share and […]

  4. Give every page its best title | Aggie Webmasters on September 25th, 2009

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