The Meta Description Tag And How To Use It For A
Higher Click Through Rate

This page tells how to write a Meta Description Tag that compels surfers to click to your site, and that's optimized for the search engines. It also tells how to put the description in your web page.

The meta description tag is a short description of your web page that you write, and it does two things.

First, it serves as an advertisement for your web page. Some search engines use it as the description on the search results page. Even Google will use it under some circumstances. Your potential visitors will judge from your  title and meta description whether to visit your website or one of your competitors.

Second, it helps search engines find out what your page is about, along with the title, headlines, body text etc.

The meta description tag doesn't affect the ranking search engines give your page, but it does affect how many people click through from the search engine results page to your web page.

If you don't have a meta description, or if the search phrase doesn't relate well to the meta description, the search engines will use a snippet of text from your page as their description. The snippet can be ugly, giving you less clicks through to your web page.

Optimizing The Meta Description For The Search Engines

The search engines use the meta description tag as one of the things that help them decide what  your page is about. Use the main keyword for the web page once in the description, maximum twice. If you use it too often, the search engines could consider it to be keyword stuffing and drop your ranking.

Optimizing For Humans

It's funny. There are lots of sites that talk about optimizing the meta description tag for the search engines, but hardly any talk in any detail about optimizing it for surfers. Yet in Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising campaigns live and die by the quality of the title and description displayed.  Advertisers work hard to improve the click-through by split testing – comparing two ads to see which gets the highest click-through rate. They test, analyze and test again until they have the best ad possible. They make the money, while advertisers that don't test fall by the wayside.

It's not so easy to test meta descriptions, but it's still worthwhile spending time to get a good description. It takes a lot of work to get to the point of being in the top 10 or top 30 search engine results. A well crafted title and description isn't a lot of extra work, and it could give an extra 50% clicks to your site, or maybe even double them. What would that be worth to you?

I'll try to fill in the gaps in optimizing meta descriptions for your ideal visitor.

You should at this stage have a thumbnail sketch of your ideal visitor. So think about what they are looking for; what they need. Your description is to get targeted surfers to click through to your site, it isn't to sell your product or service.

  • Tell targeted surfers your site has the information they need. Let them know why they should click to your site.
  • Include the page keyword in the description. If the keyword that is typed in for the search is in the title or description, it will be made bold and make your website stand out more.
  • Describe your page accurately. A misleading description puts people off, and it won't bring targeted traffic.
  • The title and meta description work together to make the advertisement for your web page. Don't just repeat the title for the description.
  • You don't have to write in complete sentences. If a list of the main points works better, use that.
  • You have around 150 characters, including spaces, to work with. That's around 20-25 words. After that your description can be cut short.
  • Use a unique description for each page.
  • Check other sites in your niche for ideas, but don't copy. You'll get an idea of what looks good and what doesn't.
  • Write down a few possible descriptions. That way you have the best chance of getting a good one.

On your home page you can write a site-wide description. On the level two pages that are like hubs for different sections of your site, you can describe that section. On all other pages write a description for that page alone.

Test When Time Allows

It doesn't matter how well you think a description will work, the proof is in the visitor numbers. When your site is more established and you have time, revisit your meta descriptions and titles. Check your stats, and note down how many visitors the page is getting in what period of time.

Try changing the description and/or title and check what happens after the search engines update the results page with your new description/title.

Do you get more visitors, or less? Just do a page or two at a time, so that you can get a feel for what your visitors click on without risking losing too many visitors at once. Tweaking the title/description won't change your ranking, but it could make a significant difference in your click-through rate, and your income.

When you test, always write down the title/description you're replacing and the stats, so you can always go back if the original works better, and so you can compare the different "ads" and their results.

How To Put The Meta Description Tag In Your Page

Your web page editor should have a dialog box that lets you enter the description, along with the title.

In Nvu, click on Format in the menubar at the top of the page, then on Page Title And Properties. A dialog box will pop up that lets you enter the title, author, and description.

To enter the description directly into the HTML source code use the following code.

<meta name="description" content="Write Your Description Here">

Put it in the Head section of the source code after the title. Here's an example of some HTML source code showing where the title, meta description tag and meta keywords go.

The part of the page your visitors see is the bit in between <body> and </body> tags.

<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN" "">

<title>Write Your Title Here</title>
name="description" content="Write your description here">
<meta name="keywords" content="main keyword, keyword 2"
this is where you write your content

Return from Meta Description Tag to How To Build A Web Page

Return to How To Build A Website Home