[Video] Optimizing Your Meta Description Tags for Google Searchers

Tips to Optimize Meta Descriptions

  • Meta description tags may appear in the search results below your page title. Descriptions should be formatted in compete sentences so they read well to humans. Google displays about 150 to 160 characters from meta description tags in their search results. If your description runs past 160 characters they will cut it short and add ... at the end of their listing.
  • Each meta description should be unique on a per page basis. If you have a large website you can automatically generate descriptions using formulas to include things like item price, shipping details, or any sales offers. If your site is smaller it is best to edit each meta description by tag, especially on your key pages.
  • Meta descriptions should compliment your page titles by helping you differentiate from the competition and appeal to your target audience using similar touch-points.
  • Your descriptions should use slightly different word orders and keywords than what you use in the page title. Some examples:
    • If a page title uses the plural version of the word the description can use the singular version
    • If a page title uses an acronym the meta description can use the full version of the phrase
      word order should be changed where it makes sense
    • If SEO Book was in my page title my meta description might include something like leading book on search engine optimization
  • If you do not have a meta description tag or your description is irrelevant to the search query search engines may grab a snippet of text from your page to describe your listing. If you do not like the snippet they grab you can either create a meta description tag or edit the part of your page that they are inserting into the search results. After their next crawl of your page they should update your snippet.
Published: October 26, 2007 by Aaron Wall in videos


October 27, 2007 - 3:00am

Helpful vid Aaron. I especially liked the ideas of

1) Sound like Google wrote it
2) Call to action
3) Trailing ellipses to encourage them to click and read on.

Made me think of the description as much more of an ad than a collection of valuable words.

Can't explain why, but when I looked at the new video, I immediately wondered how long it is. The time counter is set at 0:00 until the play button is clicked. I wonder if that is configurable to show the run time while in a resting state?

If not, I guess you could put a title (w/ logo), author and run time as the first screen, instead of the blurry SERP.

SEO Optimization
October 27, 2007 - 4:42pm

Great advice Aaron, of course unique description meta tag for each page is important, but I never thought about the idea to use the whole sentence in case the title has the acronym.

What I would say (especially for blogs) is better to have the meta description tag for each page instead of letting Google pick a snippet of the content and use it as description since most of the times Google will simply take the first lines (if a search query is not performed) and that usually ends as description to have the category name, date of post and author.

On my blog I started without meta description but just because I was willing to prove to many on the webmaster forums that meta description IS considered when we talk about rankings in the SERPs. Those same pages that first were without meta description used to have a low ranking, once I added a metatag description the rankings for those internal pages increased and were performing much better.

Now i will see how it will work with the tip I just learned from you to cover the full phrase if in title has been used the acronym and vice versa.

October 27, 2007 - 6:02pm

I don't think great meta descriptions tend to make sites rank way better, I just think they allow you to get more traffic given the same rankings.

It is easier to improve the look of a listing in the search results than it is to get a lot more pages ranking high. And if clickthrough rates ever factor into relevancy algorithms then it helps even more to get a high CTR.

November 1, 2007 - 3:12pm

Hi Aaron:

I am new to the SEO side of web marketing, so I may see things a little differently then some of the other professionals who have been in this game for years.

I think you have some outstanding points,and I am so glad to see that you have so much information about SEO written in terms that is easy to understand for people like me who are just getting started.

I am still confused on what the big deal about a websites page rank. The last time I checked, the purpose of a website is to drive traffic to it hoping to convert that traffic into an actual sale or lead.

I agree with you 100% about the meta descriptions. It just makes sense to write the descriptions like an ad would be written. Like I said previously, a website is created to sell your products or services and not to struggle with googles page rank but to get your website seen by those people who could be a potential customer or client.

Thanks again for all of the helpful information. You have been bookmarked and I read your blogs daily.

Charles Richey
October 27, 2007 - 7:37pm

Some people say they don't waste time with meta tags any more. I still use them, but write them for the surfer.

SEO Optimization
October 27, 2007 - 9:01pm

I have entered in discussion many times about rankings and meta description, but mainly because I have seen improvement on the SERPs of before and after adding meta tags. Of course good written meta tag improves the look of the listing and increase the click through rate no doubts on that.

I have run a 1 month experiment on meta tags monitored and made sure I wasn't getting any backlinks to that given URL (unless I had missed something). I left that URL like that without meta tag for a long period, enough to get indexed and to get the actual position in the SERPs (the competition for that keyword was some to none, it was easier for me to track the results), a month later I added meta tag description and used the keyword at the very beginning of the description and at the end (total of 2 times repeat) and made sure to ping google to crawl again the URL. It took awhile that the URL was updated in the SERPs and the description was displayed, but the ranking moved from 32nd position to 19th (hence i believe that somewhat meta description does help in ranking, but I might be as well wrong, or at least it helps in less competitive keywords).

October 27, 2007 - 10:00pm

There is also other factors that go into relevancy. Some pages and sites just rank better as they age. I have seen multiple sites that were reorganized and had lots of content added, only to see small traffic increases off the start, followed by increasing traffic as the content aged.

Google has an algorithm called QDF (which stands for query deserves freshness). Since they have that I wouldn't bet against them also trusting some types of content more as they age.

SEO Optimization
October 28, 2007 - 4:44pm

That makes much more sense and probably puts aside my 1 month long experiment. I think I still have some pages in my blog that don't have a meta description, i think I will leave them as that for a while now and run another experiment on them later on.

But what you just explained to me it makes me feel like it would be a waste of time to experiment this again (but I heck, i love experimenting with what I can).

Thanks for heading me to the right direction Aaron.


April 6, 2008 - 7:13pm

what about the keywords, I see so much emphasis on selecting the right keywords for a page, or in our case our category page or product (detail)page. Would it not be the right procedure to first select the right keywords for a certain category, keywords that you feel must be in the metadescription and perhaps the most important keyword in the title tag - and based on what you actually want to convey to the SE. Write that down in the metadescription based on those keywords

Should not be the meta description be based on the keywords and not the other way around?

April 6, 2008 - 10:58pm

I think the meta description should focus more on being compelling to searcher desire than just being aligned with keywords.

April 7, 2008 - 6:20am

however in essential I will use the keywords that I believe are those keywords that the searcher might use.

January 2, 2010 - 6:43am

I appreciate the content you were able to put for the people like me. Please help me understand the sub concept of metadata i.e "Meta keywords"..

I seek your help in letting me understand one concept -" Applicability of Keyword match types in Metadata " (meta keywords). Whether narrowing the scope of each meta keyword with phrase and exact matches is going to help or not is my question. I have been searching for that and I thought you can be a better person to help me out of the bush.

Google's procedure of letting a site come on top is not only dedicated to just surfing a site's meta data but also so many hidden factors. But some how as is depending on meta data as well, I was thinking about this.

Awaiting your help,

Thanks and Regards

January 2, 2010 - 8:49am

If you have specific SEO questions feel free to ask in our member forums.

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