One of the rules I often tell people about SEO (search engine optimization) is to do things for human users only – NOT for search engines. One of the most important things to do to help a user find your site actually does very little for a search engine perspective. Years ago, search engines such as Google and Yahoo, used to read through a web page’s Meta description. Today, however, search engines pay little to no attention to Meta descriptions. That said, they are still a very important part of any site’s SEO.
So if a search engine pays such little attention to the Meta description, why is it so important? Simple – we humans read it when we do search. When someone does a search on any of the leading search engines, the sentence or short paragraph description of the site is the Meta description. It’s those 150 or so characters that describe what the page is about and give us a quick snapshot of what we’re going to find on that particular page.
In the above image, the text inside the red boxes is the Meta description. In the second listing, you’ll notice the ellipsis (“…”) at the end. That particular page’s Meta description went over the 150 – 160 character recommendation so anything after that is simply left off.
People like to know immediately what they’re going to be seeing on the page they’re about to click. Due to that, the Meta description is an excellent chance to convince the user that your page is in fact the page they are looking for. No cheesy sales pitch, no Ron Popeil, “But wait, there’s more!” type of gimmicks. Simply explain in approximately 150 – 160 words what the page is about. You don’t really need to worry about using the keywords. Though it will help, the big goal of the Meta description is to convince the user to click the link and visit the page.
While the search engines themselves pay very little attention to the Meta description, they are still a very important part of any SEO program. Optimizing the Meta description for each page will provide a much greater chance of that link being clicked on by the end user. At the end of the day, that is the goal of SEO.