After the title tag, the description tag is the next most important aspect of your header HTML code. This tag allows you to give a short and concise description of your web page content.
Along with the title tag, this is presented in the search engine results pages (SERPs) and advertised your site to would-be visitors. After reading the title, a user will read through your description and decide whether or not to visit your site. For this reason, it is important that your description is nicely composed describing your page offering whilst also enticing the user to click on your listing.
The syntax of the description tax is very simple:
<meta name=”description” content =”Your description is entered here”>
As with the title tag, many WYSIWYG editors, such as DreamWeaver, GoLive and FrontPage, do not enter this information into your HTML template.
Writing a Description Tag
If you perform a search on Google, you can see that the description portion of the results listings are quite short; usually around 15 words. For this reason, your description should not exceed 20-25 words (140-200 characters – depending on your title length, as this is also shown in the listing), and you should also remember that possibly only the first 10-15 words will be shown to a potential user.
It is worth noting that the description is not used by search engines for ranking purposes, due to historical keywords spamming as discussed in the main article on Meta tags and SEO.
With this in mind, you can feel free to write your description in a form that is purely for human consumption, but also short and to the point.
Description Tag Myths
“If you include your keywords, you can improve your rankings in Search Engines.”
False. Following the misuse of the tag in the late nineties, most search engines do not support the description tag at all. It is used solely to provide anecdotal information about your web page content.
“If you use duplicate descriptions across multiple pages, search engines penalise your results.”
False. Although search engines passionately protect their search algorithms, there is no evidence to suggest that this is the case. Indeed, with the tag not being fully supported, it certainly seems unlikely.
I hope that this has helped to clear up some of your concerns around using the description meta tag.
There are more tags that we will be covering in later articles.