4 Reasons Why Optimizing Your Page Descriptions Is Critical

Writ­ing unique descrip­tions for every page and opti­miz­ing this key bit of code is impor­tant for com­pelling searchers to vis­it your site.

Danny Goodwin By Danny Goodwin from Momentology. Join the discussion » 1 comment

The meta descrip­tion tag is the title tag’s best friend – a sub­head­line to your page’s head­line, if you will. A promise of what peo­ple will find when they click through from the search results to your site. So it’s impor­tant to ensure you’re writ­ing unique descrip­tions for every page and opti­miz­ing this key bit of code.

There are four crit­i­cal rea­sons why you should take con­trol of your website’s meta descrip­tion tags right now.

1. They Show Up In The Search Results

Let’s rewind for a minute to bet­ter under­stand how descrip­tion tags work and why they are impor­tant. The descrip­tion tag is part of your meta infor­ma­tion, which is housed in the head sec­tion on the code side of your page. Along with the title tag, the descrip­tion tag serves as the text that shows up in the search result snip­pet. Linkdex search snippet While this tag does­n’t have the same weight as the title tag in terms of rank­ing, it does com­mu­ni­cate to the search engines what the page is about, and a pow­er­ful page descrip­tion entices searchers to click through to your site.

2. Entice Click-Throughs To Your Website

Sim­ply describ­ing in a gener­ic way what’s on the page is not com­pelling enough to entice clicks (e.g., “This is a post about dog sweaters. Click through.”). It has to sup­port the most impor­tant mes­sage of the page, address­ing the user’s intent and the pur­pose of the page. So, if it’s a prod­uct page, you’ll want to include the most impor­tant infor­ma­tion about the prod­uct. If it’s a blog post, you’ll want to include a descrip­tion that makes the user want to read more. Includ­ing in your descrip­tion tag the most impor­tant key­words for the page (in a nat­ur­al way) will also send a sig­nal to the searcher that your page is the right place to be, because in the search results, search engines like Google will bold the words in the descrip­tion that match the searcher’s query. Linkdex search snippet description And don’t for­get you can use struc­tured data in descrip­tion tags, too. Google gives this exam­ple:

For exam­ple, news or blog post­ings can list the author, date of pub­li­ca­tion, or byline infor­ma­tion. This can give poten­tial vis­i­tors very rel­e­vant infor­ma­tion that might not be dis­played in the snip­pet oth­er­wise. Sim­i­lar­ly, prod­uct pages might have the key bits of information—price, age, manufacturer—scattered through­out a page. A good meta descrip­tion can bring all this data togeth­er. For exam­ple, the fol­low­ing meta descrip­tion pro­vides detailed infor­ma­tion about a book. <meta name=“Description” content=“Author: A.N. Author, Illus­tra­tor: P. Pic­ture, Cat­e­go­ry: Books, Price: $17.99, Length: 784 pages”> In this exam­ple, infor­ma­tion is clear­ly tagged and sep­a­rat­ed.

Test­ing shows you can improve click-through rates via the descrip­tion tag. One study by Adobe showed a lift in click-through rates when they includ­ed a brand­ed term towards the front of the descrip­tion tag (keep­ing in mind that brand is a key aspect of their prod­uct).

3. Autosnippets Stink

If you put noth­ing in your descrip­tion tag, search engines will cre­ate a descrip­tion for you in the search result snip­pet (a.k.a. “autosnip­pet”). And you might not like it. On the oth­er hand, no mat­ter how much work you put into craft­ing a per­fect descrip­tion tag, Google reserves the right to gen­er­ate its own descrip­tion to dis­play in the search results based on what it thinks is best for the user. In those instances, the search engine deter­mines what text on the page would be ide­al to dis­play instead of the descrip­tion you pro­vid­ed. One source that Google uses to cre­ate autosnip­pets is the Open Direc­to­ry Project, and you can pre­vent Google from using infor­ma­tion there by adding a spe­cif­ic meta tag to your pages.

4. Social Networks Use Them

When you share your con­tent on cer­tain social net­works and social book­mark­ing sites, they pull the meta descrip­tion as a sum­ma­ry of the con­tent. If that descrip­tion is miss­ing, bor­ing, or not entic­ing enough, it may not elic­it the engage­ment you’re hop­ing for. Description tag social Meta descrip­tion tags are an impor­tant part of your page’s struc­ture, but they are often over­looked. In organ­ic search, every lit­tle bit we can do to help our con­tent be found and entice users to click through is crit­i­cal in the super com­pet­i­tive world of search.

Danny Goodwin

Written by Danny Goodwin

Managing Editor, Momentology

Danny Goodwin is the former Managing Editor of Momentology. Previously, he was the editor of Search Engine Watch, where he was in charge of editing, content strategy, and writing about search industry news.

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