Question: What Is The Meta Description Tag?
I’m building my first website. What is the meta description tag and is it important?
Within the header on each page are three core sections, the ‘page title’, the ‘meta description tag’ and the ‘meta keywords tag’. The page title is the text that appears at the top of your browser window (depending on the browser you are using).
The title is also the first line of the listing that will appear in your Google SERPs listing.
Below the page title is the description tag, which make up the next two lines of your Google entry. Google use the meta description to apply relevance to your site.
If you don’t specify a description tag, Google will select a section of your page text and use that instead. In some instances, they will still do this if a section of your page text has very specific and relevant information that they consider to be more useful than the description you have given.
The meta description tag isn’t the place to cram lots of keywords.
The purpose of your meta description is to act as a teaser to encourage Google users to click on your listing in preference to the others.
You should include a variation of the main keywords or search terms you would like to rank for, but it isn’t beneficial to repeat keywords or phrases as you will run the risk of being seen as a spammer.
Write your description tag for real people, but with an eye on the keywords that search engines want to see.
Click Through Rate
Google measure your click through rate and compare it with the sites around you in SERPs. They then compare the time on site, bounce rate etc. once people click.
The sites with the best click through rate, lowest bounce rate and best time on site, pages viewed etc. will rise in the rankings.
You can influence your click through rate with your description tag. Compelling descriptions will improve your websites overall performance, so form an important part of your SEO.
Meta Description Length
The standard character length for a description tag is 167 letters, numbers, punctuation and spaces. Longer than this doesn’t get read, and shorter is a waste of valuable real estate.
WordPress plugins such as Yoast SEO will tell you when your description tag is above the desired minimum (120 characters) and below the maximum.
It’s always preferable to vary the length of meta tags so that your site looks natural, so if a few exceed the limit it’s not going to lead to a ranking penalty, but the text at the end will not give you any benefit.