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Description tags are an interesting element when SEO’ing your site, in that they are one of the most essential elements on your on page SEO. However, for most search engines, they have no effect on your on page SEO.

What Are Description Tags?

Description tags are tags, placed in the header of the HTML page, that looks a little like this:-

[html]<meta name="description" content="This is the description text!">[/html]

They describe the content on page and are no bigger than 160 characters in length. Often they are used beneath the search results for the search engines – for example, this is how this website appears in Google:-

A few years ago, it was a hugely important part of SEO, as often keywords were stuffed into the description tags willy nilly. Now, not so much. Though keywords are highlighted when searches are made (this is the search for “Old Trafford”).

What’s the Official Word on How Description Tags Affect SEO?

From Google’s Webmaster Help:-

“While accurate meta descriptions can improve clickthrough, they won’t impact your ranking within search results. We frequently prefer to display meta descriptions of pages (when available) because it gives users a clear idea of the URL’s content.”

So yes, Google does recommend them, but it doesn’t have an impact in the rankings.

Why You Should Include Them on The Page?

Well Google does suggest that useful description tags can help clickthroughs, as even though your site may rank second in Google, you may get the clickthrough instead of the number one listing.

This can have an effect on your search engine rankings on individual local machines – as the most popular results can appear higher in Google (thanks to local search history) – though it’s doesn’t effect worldwide Google Rankings.

Advice for Good Description Tags

So what should you include in description tags? One thing not to bother with is a list of keywords. What I’d try and include is an elevator pitch (if nothing else). I also try to include the following.

    • Unique Selling Points – Do you offer free delivery? Are your products covered by a guarantee? What makes you different from all the other results on the page? Depending on the client, I try and include such phrases in my meta description such as:-
  • Free Delivery.
  • No Win No Fee.
  • 30 Day Return Policy.
  • Call To Action – The most important thing is a call to action to get you to click on the link, or depending on your website, not getting them to click at all. Stick a phone number there if need be. Either way, you should provide a primer for your domain in the call to action.

Share Your Tips!

This is just my opinion on description tags, and it appears to work. What works for you? Do please share your thoughts in the comments.



  • Marcus

    Good piece Rhys…I keep catching your stuff now via retweet.

    I think in terms of Conversion Optimization, the meta description also plays a part.

    What do you think?

    January 12, 2011 at 7:36 pm
    • Rhys Wynne

      Hmmm….not so sure.

      I mean, the “Conversion” for the Meta description tag is by getting people to click on your link, so I guess. Not sure how it could translate to on page optimisation for conversions – unless you place a discount code etc. in your description tag & only your discription tag.

      January 13, 2011 at 3:36 am
  • Marcus

    Sorry, not retweet, I mean Tweet Club.

    January 12, 2011 at 7:37 pm

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