Beginners Guide To SEO 2: Web Page Descriptions

When you view a web page you will never see a web page description. So you may not even realise that web pages can be given a description, or realise how useful it can be. If you own a website you need to know that they are important for SEO, for the same reasons that web page titles are important:

  1. The description is used by search engines as an indication of the content of the page, and by providing one your page will appear higher in search listings.
  2. The description of the page is often reproduced within the search listing, which makes it an opportunity to encourage someone to click on it and visit your website. Without a description the search engine generates the listing automatically, which is crude and unreliable.

Note: for Google at least, the meta keywords tag has no effect on SEO and so is much less important than either the description or title. I have stopped using it for reasons explained in my article Does Google Use The Meta Keywords Tag?

Optimise Your Web Page Description For SEO

To work well your web page description should:

  • be different for each page
  • describe the important content on the page
  • be a short, concise readable sentence (150-160 characters) featuring important keywords
  • elaborate on the page title without being repetitive (see example below)

How A Web Page Description Helps Your Website

A web page description is worth including on every page you hope will attract visitors from search engines because:

  1. Many websites don’t provide a description which means providing one gives you an advantage.
  2. Without a description, Google has less to go on when deciding what the page is about. By providing one, you increase Google’s confidence in what the page is about, and your page will appear higher in Google’s listing for relevant search terms.
  3. Withough a description,  Google creates one automatically from the text on the page. You can make your listing more attractive to search users and so increase the chance of your page being clicked on, and increase your visitors from Google.

Create Your Title And Description Together

If you provide a good clear title and description it makes your listing more likely to be clicked than an adjacent result that is less clear, even if the other page is relevant to the search. It therefore makes sense to work on the title and description together, and to use the description to elaborate on the title, which is more prominent and should be designed to draw the user’s attention and identify the broad category of content.

Google Search Listing With Description and Title

The following listing is one result of the search for web hosting packages, and shows both a short descriptive title, and a description that elaborates and provides the detailed information the searcher needs to tell if your page is what they want.

example-google-search-listing-with-description

SEO Tip: How To Check Your Search Listings

Here’s a useful tip. Once you have created suitable web page descriptions, and Google has had a chance to index them, check how they look in the search listings that potential visitors will see:

SEO Tip:  Check your search listings by searching for each page in Google. To do this, include “site:yourwebsite.com” in the search, and enter an appropriate keyword.

Summary

Web page descriptions are important because they help the search engine understand what the page is about, and when your page appears in the search listing, the description helps your potential customer focus in on what you are offering. This ensures you appear higher in the listings for relevant searches (keyword optimisation), and makes it more likely that people will click on your listing (“click through”) than the many websites that have not provided a decent description.

A good description is a short, readable sentence that described the page and includes the most important keywords, up to about 150-160 characters long.

It makes sense to work on page title and description together. Use the title to indicate the broad category and draw the reader’s attention, and use the description to elaborate and make it easy to determine as clearly as possible what the page is about. Ensure consistency while avoiding repetition, as this doesn’t read so well.

I wrote a similar post on creating web page titles for SEO and click-through.

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