Here’s a quick off-the-cuff thought. I think the meta description tag is one of the most misunderstood and ignored marketing elements of websites being built today.
Even though it’s 2013, web designers still ask business owners for a list of keywords for the keyword tag (which has been ignored by search engines for eons now) and most don’t even put a meta description on the site. Or they put the same one on every page.
Hell, even WordPress, which runs 17%+ of all the damn websites in existence ignores it in it’s generic install.
Listen, Mr or Mrs Business Owner, the description tag is, in my opinion, very important to the success of your online marketing efforts. Am I clear on that?
So What Is This Magical Tag of Which You Speak, Will?
It’s a little piece of code that goes into your website. Inside the code is a few words that tell the search engine what it is: a description of the page they are looking at. One or two sentences should do the trick, and you have around 170 characters to squeeze it in. Every page gets it’s own, unique meta description, because afterall, every page on your website is unique, different, and about a single thing, right? Man, I’m using the bold a lot today.
When you look at that page in a browser, you don’t see the meta description. It’s hidden in the code. Yet it’s lurking there, just waiting to perform. And perform it does.
Soon after publishing a page on your website, Mr. Googlebot pays a visit to your website to see what’s going on. He sees a new page and “reads through it”, picking up various pieces of your content, links, etc. And he also grabs that little meta description tag and earmarks it for something great. Something that will determine whether you get more traffic or less traffic. Yes, I think it’s that important.
You see, the meta description tag is what shows up in the results that others see when they’re searching for your product, service or industry.
Let’s take your home page. For most businesses, it’s arguably the most important page on your website. Most visitors land there and start their quest to learn more about your services and products. But why did they land on your website in the first place? Probably because of your meta description.
If you’re looking for a new roof for your business, which one of these would you be more willing to click on?
I’m going to take a guess and say the first one. Why? Because their meta description tag is genius. It describes just what you’re looking for. It has all the right words, it has chutzpah, it’s bold, to the point and makes sense. The second one, well it comes across as some spammy ad. Yeah, I’m not clicking that crap. Plus, it’s not even a St. Louis area code. Forget it.
The meta description gives you control over your search engine listings. It lets you persuade potential visitors to pick you!
Do I Have These on My Site?
The easiest way to check if you have these on your site is to simply visit a page on your website, right click and choose view source. On that page of geeky code, just do a search (typically CTRL-F) and look for the word description. It should look something like this.
<meta name="description" content="This is the description of this page.
It's a great page with lots of great information about blue widgets">
It’s important that the tag not only be there, but that the content portion of it be filled out. And in case you missed it, every page needs its own unique description.
You’ve Gotta Get This Done
Don’t ignore the meta description tag. If your designer hasn’t plugged these in, get them on the phone now. This tag shouldn’t be the redheaded stepchild, ignored by so many when there could be such great potential there. If you’re using WordPress, install the Yoast SEO plugin and fill out all your own descriptions. If you’re running an ecommerce store, every product should have it’s own, unique description.
If you really want to have this under control, I recommend downloading the Excel template that I use and fill out the current information. Then see what’s missing, what’s possibly not correct, and what needs to be fixed. Keep it as a living, breathing document that grows as your site grows.