Part 1 : HTML META Description tag

1. Destination: Between the start and the end HEAD tag : here

2. Correct HTML syntax (HTML 4.1):

3. Correct XHTML syntax (XHTML 1.0):

4. Maximum number of recommended characters: Google will display a maximum of 152-154 description characters for URL’s, in his results pages, any content residing after the 152-154 character limit beeing totally scraped and ignored).

As a personal recommendation, do not exceed 420 characters (to profit the most from all search engine description rules).

Yahoo will display, depending on a number of aspects, between 412 and 420 maximum description characters, any content residing after the 412-420 character limit beeing totally scraped and ignored.

MSN will display, depending on a number of aspects, between 190 and 195 maximum description characters, any content residing after the 190-195 character limit beeing totally scraped and ignored.

Try to resume yourself to 150 characters (space too, is considered a countable character), which are most descriptive and relevant to your page/website. Avoid to irellevantly repeat words (do not repeat any word, more than twice), because it will not help you at all.

Avoid to use the website’s URL address in the Meta description tag, because it will not help you at all, beside to waste important space, that might be filled with unique relevant keywords. Avoid using keywords or phrases that are not relevant to that particular page/website.

Avoid using special characters: !, @, #, $, % (etc.) or diacritics, because of certain browsers as well as certain search engine spiders incompatibilities with the standards of most unusual language coding.

5. Description: Represents a short and as much unique as possible description of every page in a website, as well as of the website itself. This is a very important and crucial part of any website’s optimization.

The most known (and bigger) search engines (MSN, Google, Yahoo), emphase a great deal of importance on this tag’s presence in every page’s HTML code. In the last year or so, Google (and recently MSN) started to sustract the description of a website, from it’s DMOZ submission (if that particular website is present in the DMOZ’s index), if it doesn’t find the Meta description tag present.

If the description tag is not present in a page, and the website is not in DMOZ either, the description which is shown in Google’s search result pages, will automatically be created by Google, from the page’s content, and it will just be an accumulation of spidered words, chosen randomly, which will not only negatively affect your optimization effect, but it will just waste a good optimization process, as well as your rankings.

6. Utilization: It’s very important to use this tag in every page of your website. Do not repeat the words excessively. Try to resume yourself to the number of characters specified in section 4, depending on the search engine you are optimizing for.

Do NOT repeat the same description in every page of your website, because all your pages will enter under the search engines duplicate content filter’s infuence (practically you can have 40.000 pages in your website, but if you have the same description for all of them, at the search, you will only have a few results).

7. Advantages: Significantly helps the inpage optimization process. Represents an important in the pozitioning algorithm used by the international search engines. It also improves the accessibility of a page

8. Disadvantages: None.

9. The importance of the tag’s presence in the HTML code : BIG.

10. SEO Score

  • Aprox. benefit brought to the overall inpage optimization process : 10%.
  • Aprox. benefit brought to the overall page accesibility / functionality process: 2-5%.

11. Real world usage examples (HTML 4.1):

META Description

META Description

Published by

Cristian Mezei

I am myself.

16 thoughts on “Part 1 : HTML META Description tag”

  1. My web pages shared the same description which is actually the description of my website. But when you have mentioned that search engines may list only a few of my web pages because of the same meta description, I will try to change my every page meta description to fit the contents. Hope that this would improve my web ranking. I will let you know if there would be any improvement

    trying to live a life so simple

  2. George, at the first glance, your personal view might be true, but looking deeper, you will see that “the fact that Google doesn’t find a webpage by it’s description” doesn’t mean that it doesn’t count.

  3. Hi Cristian,
    Thanks for the prompt response, you’re quite right that the description certainly has it’s uses, particularly to get people to click on the link in the SERPs, and of course Yahoo and Ask use it for ranking (but not MSN) so it should be optimised anyway.
    All the best,

  4. Thanks for the clarity on numbers of characters all around.
    After 9 years etailing shoes online, and 4 incarnations, our new ( a year in development )site recently launched. Much better design, awesome new features, and lots more product. But, lo and behold, after 1 month – no increase in sales. Need REAL help – please reccommendations for the real deal. thanks Len

  5. Very interesting thread on the challenges of having success with the search engines. We just launched a new site as well and have gotten mixed “expert” opinions on the importance of meta descriptions. Sounds like we may need it for Yahoo and ASK, but question on Google? How do we get to a “final ruling ” on this?

    Len, I feel your pain. I keep hearing it is all about in-pointing links and getting as many of them as possible. As a veteran here though, maybe you have done all that basic stuff already.


  6. I’ve been reading through your exchanges and have to say I find them very informative. I have been reading volumes of opinion and information in regards to LSI and wondered if anyone is aware or has a tool for measuring theme density in the way that some of the bots view it. I have tried to implement what I understand to be the LSI concept to my sites and it would be really good if I could have some way of testing it.

  7. George, Google (and most every search engine) fully supports the ‘Description’ attribute in META data but may not always include it in search results. Displaying page content relative to the search term is instead its first priority.

    However, Google does NOT support the ‘Keywords’ attribute at all. By their own admission, Google hasn’t used it since late 2002. In fact, there is only one documented search engine on the net that still uses the ‘Keywords’ META data…Inktomi


  8. Hi,
    See i am a bit late on this discussion. Currently we have been ‘optimised’ by a bunch of cowboys who have the same description on all our 2,500 pages -so i suppose no wonder our ranks are not improving so we are in the process of switching to a program that takes the description on the page and puts it in the description tag -are there dangers with them being the same or should i edit so there is some difference?
    Another question -we have a .com address ie. – by putting in the county tag= GB will google etc recognise us in UK searches? I have been looking for a definitive answer on this and so far seen little discussion?

  9. we have been ‘optimised’ by a bunch of cowboys who have the same description on all our 2,500 pages

    That’s the most common mistake all around. That will bring your pages in the supplemental index.

    are there dangers with them being the same or should i edit so there is some difference?

    Each of your pages should have the title and the meta description as unique as possible, catering to that speific page, not the whole website niche.

    by putting in the county tag= GB will google etc recognise us in UK searches?

    That has to do with the “search pages in UK language” not “search pages from UK”. If you want to be found on UK only searches, try to get a domain as well as UK hosting (with an IP from UK).

    Have fun.

  10. WOW – rapid response – i think i was really unclear on my previous, new program on website will take description from each individual page -so each page will be different but viewable description on each page will be put in the html description so as too be same! is there any danger in this/this is done automatically but one can edit.
    Re language we have on page which ok is english- but could be from australia etc
    We have also added

    because we come up in worldwide search but not so much on just UK search [we do sell overseas though but bulk of biz is UK]
    Just not sure if we have to do anything else – i note your comment about IP address – its German because we are hosted by 1&1 but so are a whole load of UK sites and am told by other SEO ‘experts’ should be ok. I also have the verde name but has no positions /not being used – if i use this wont i have to start from scratch?

  11. I see my html refs have been removed but you can see what i mean from source on page.
    meta name=”country” content=”GB”
    META NAME=”geo.region” content=”GB”
    META NAME=”geo.placename” content=”Cardiff”

  12. Is there a minimum length for description? I have been trying to create keyword specific pages with fairly good results – Title being keyword(s), description “company name supplies keyword(s) throughout the UK” – but in this instance should I pad the description out more to reach the 420 character max?

  13. So some use meta descriptions, and some don’t.
    But I think it’s better to have than to have not.

    I’ve done a lot of looking at it seems that in 150 character range is best.

    So with that said, the real problem is how to limit the characters from a dynamic meta description.

    Especially, if like me, you populate your meta description from the listings description, which can be quite long.

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