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. 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. 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. 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.