The meta description field is supported by most major search engines and is found as a snippet of code found within thesection of a page. It is utilized to provide a summary of a web page’s content but should be well optimized with keywords to indicate the content on the page and entice a user to click through to the web page from the search results.
Example: <META NAME=”Description” CONTENT=”Your description goes here.””>
There are some instances when the meta description that you’ve written does NOT show up in Google, Yahoo, or Bing’s search results. Why does this happen?? Should I be concerned?
There is no cause for alarm. Google uses several different sources of data when deciding how to pull things into a snippet based on the search term a user typed into the search engine. There is one common reason why different snippets can be pulled into the meta description in a search result: relevance. You’ll receive a higher click through rate to your web page if a user sees that the web page contains what they’re looking for, so the search engines will help out by pulling in content from various sources.
Where can meta description snippets be pulled from?
- DMOZ: There will be times when Google uses descriptions from the Open Directory Project for the meta description.
- Certain parts of the body copy: Depending on the keyword searched, there may be a more relevant piece of copy appropriate for the search engines to pull into the meta description.
- Image alt attributes: Occasionally image alt attribute (a tag to describe an image for the search engines) will be most relevant to display in a search result.
- A combination of the 3 listed: Meta description snippets are query-specific. Even when your meta description includes the search term, there are no guarantees that the meta description you’ve written will show up in a search result. Google has claimed (http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2007/09/improve-snippets-with-meta-description.html) that “while accurate meta descriptions can improve click-through, they won’t affect your ranking within search results.”
If you’ve followed best practices when writing your meta description, there’s not much you can do to prevent the search engines from compiling their own meta description suggestion except for restricting the use of the DMOZ description.
If you would like to prevent search engine robots from showing the DMOZ listing description you can add the following meta tags to your code: <meta name=”robots” content=”NOODP””>
To specifically prevent Google from using this information for a page’s description, use the following: <meta name=”googlebot” content=”NOODP””>
Shown is an example on Matt Cutts’ blog when he implemented the tag to prevent the DMOZ description from showing. The search results were from a query of “matt cutts”.
Need some additional tips on how to write a quality meta description?
- Google displays around 155 characters, Yahoo! up to 165 and MSN up to 200+. Try to stay close to 160 to satisfy all three search engines.
- Keywords in the meta description make a difference. Not specifically for ranking purposes, but to validate the content found on the web page and the bolding of the keywords in a search result helps your listing stand out.
- Meta descriptions should be unique for each page
- Write it to entice someone to click on your listing – it is essentially an advertisement for your webpage