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What is a meta description and what should it say?

What is a meta Description?

The Meta description is a piece of information used to describe any given web page. This information is not shown on the page you directly see and browse, rather all Meta information sits in the source code of a page.

If you wish to find the Meta description of any page you are browsing simply:

    • Right click anywhere on the page
    • Click “view source code” (or similar depending on your browser)
    • Bring up the search function of your browser
    • Search for: name=“description”

Generally the Meta information resides at the top of the source code.

It looks like this:

<meta name=”description” content=”roi.com.au is Australia’s leading SEO & search marketing company, delivering tangible, transparent and measurable results to hundreds of Australian businesses.” />

You can see it in the source code. It will generally be in a different place on every website, but a meta description should exist on every page:

meta description location
Meta description location

 

What are meta descriptions used for?

Search Engines may use the Meta description to describe a page in their search results. This generally appears as the 160 character description below the URL link for every search result. Take a look at how the major search engines display them:

Example:

URL: http://www.roi.com.au

Meta description: roi.com.au is Australia’s leading SEO & search marketing company, delivering tangible, transparent and measurable results to hundreds of Australian businesses.

Google:

google - roi meta description
Google – ROI meta description

Bing:

bing - roi meta description
Bing – ROI meta description

Yahoo:

yahoo - roi meta description
Yahoo – ROI meta description

 

 What should a Meta description say?

The content of a Meta description should be primarily dictated by the user and the interpretation of the user.  That means you should optimise your Meta description to get a high click through rate from the Search Engine Results pages (SERPs), as opposed to optimising for rankings. Gone are the days when the Meta description was a significant contributing factor towards ranking in the SERPs.

To create a great Meta description stick to the following rules of thumb:

  1. Don’t use any unnecessary words: you only have 160 characters. Anything else will be cut off, so keep it brief.
  2. Reflect the intention of the page: make sure the Meta description is an accurate reflection of the intention of the page. If it’s not you will get a high bounce rate. For example, if your page was a call to action to buy a product then your meta description should mention “buy product x”
  3. Put your most important words to the front of the Meta description: remember, your user’s attention span is short, so make sure your most important part of the message exists on the top line of the description. If it exists on the second line they may not read it when skimming through search results.

Some other helpful articles around the web:

roi.com.au delivers comprehensive SEO services in Australia that delivers sharp and effective search marketing strategy around  elements of your website like the meta description, helping you to get the most out of your online space.

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