As an administrator for the Walsh College website, I make daily content updates on the site. In the process, I have found that while it's essential that our Web pages look great and function properly, it's equally important that the Web pages are easily found. If you create or maintain Web pages, you probably have seen the meta description and meta keywords fields within your editor. Although not visible to users, these tools are used to influence search engines and they can help users find your Web page.
The Meta Description Tag
What is it?
The meta description tag describes what content is available on the webpage. The description is a summary of the web page content and includes keywords.This description isn’t necessarily visible; its main purpose is to describe the page or site content to a search engine. Additionally, the meta description can help drive traffic to the webpage or website by moderately improving SEO optimization and boosting click throughs. According to Google, if you provide a well-written and compelling meta description, this can be used as the snippet, and ultimately bring more click throughs. Similarly, Search Engine Watch states, “Sites with poor descriptions will get less click throughs and the search engines will demote your site in favor of other sites.”
To summarize, the meta description tag is important to a webpage’s existence for three main reasons, according to Search Engine Watch:
- Tells the search engine what your page or site is about.
- Helps with click through rates to your site.
- Helps with site rankings.
How to use it?
The meta description tag should be written to clearly and compellingly describe the information on the webpage. The ideal length of the description is under 200 characters (including spaces). It’s vital the description is comprehensible and concise while still appealing to potential page visitors. Meta descriptions can be left empty – it is likely Google or Bing will complete it for you (which can be a positive or a negative factor).
According to SweBee’s optimization tips, when writing a meta description, follow the steps below:
- Reuse all keywords in meta description.
- Use only 200 characters in your meta description.
- Ensure your meta description is in one line.
The Meta Keywords Tag
What is it?
Unlike the meta description tag, the meta keywords tag isn’t considered a critical element for website sustainability. According to Search Engine Watch, it is recommended to avoid this tag, or at the least ensure the use of keywords is minimal. Google doesn't use the keywords meta tag in web search ranking and they don’t suggest spending time developing the keywords, as the only search engine that looks at the keywords is Bing (used to help detect spam only).
How to use it?
SiteGround states that while the meta keyword tag is the least important tag presently, it is still a way to reinforce most important keywords. They recommend using between four and 10 keywords, listed with commas, corresponding to major search phrases.
Likewise, SweBee’s optimization tips include:
- Match the first keyword in meta keywords to the name of the page
- Include up to five keywords only
- Use a maximum of three words per keyword
- Ensure webpage content contains keywords