Should I optimise my meta description tag for better rankings?

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By Dave Ashworth
on 7/9/09

Although a fairly basic concept, the meta description one which is constantly overlooked and/or mis-used.

First of all, it is not a replacement for the now defunct keywords tag, yet on a daily basis I come across sites that have used this simply to display a load of keywords that are supposedly relevant to the page, presumably on the understanding that the meta description can be used to increase your rankings.

It will not.

That is not to say you should not include keywords relevant to the page within your description, but remember this:

Meta descriptions are for clickthroughs, not rankings.

The meta description is the advert for your site’s page in amongst all the other sites listed in the SERPs.   In a competitive list of search results, it can be the key to driving traffic to your site/page.

Therefore, when writing your meta descriptions for your site’s key pages, a few points to bear in mind:

  • Make sure the text is succinct and compelling whilst remaining descriptive and relevant to the page.
  • Ensure that it contains relevant the keywords for that page, they will be made bold in the SERPs and will draw a user’s attention to your link, just don’t over do it.
  • Use different descriptions on different pages, it’s ok to use a site-level description on the home page but avoid doing so on sub pages of your site.
  • You don’t always need to write a description tag.   Whilst they are undoubtedly important on key pages on your website that target high volume searches,  if you run a blog it maybe wiser to let the search engines display the query-relevant text from within your article to make the descriptions more relevant to long tail search queries.