Metadata. What an awesomely geeky word! Sounds like how you how you would describe meditating about data. Or maybe its data about a meteorite. Or could it be information about metaphors? Actually none of those answers are correct…or are they? No. They are not. The actual and simple definition: metadata is data or information about data.

What is Meta Data?

Metadata is often found in all kinds of digital data from photograph files to music files. The files that contain code that make up web pages also contain metadata. Within a web page HTML file tags called meta tags are used to provide useful data about the data within a page, called meta descriptions. I know, it’s confusing.

What are Meta Descriptions?

A meta description is the few short lines of text that is displayed under the headline of a site when shown in search results and when shared on social media sites. This caption describes the content within the page being linked to. So when you type something into a search engine, the text below each result is the meta description. Likewise, when you post a link to your friend’s Facebook page, the meta description will display below the link as a small amount of text.

Why are Meta Descriptions Important?

Although Google has claimed that meta descriptions are not used to determine site rankings, it’s important to know that meta descriptions are used by humans and bots to convey important information about your site. Your site may get good search rankings, but if you write a crappy meta description, or even worse, don’t write a description at all and leave it blank, then you leave it up to the search engine bots to provide this description to users…and the bots don’t always do a great job. I mean, let’s face it—they’re bots! Bots may not convey the important aspects of your page with the level of priority and clarity that you (a human) can. When users see the meta description that a bot has written in its sometimes broken and disjointed (and monotone) form, they may think the site is less trustworthy or not the best solution to their search needs. Therefore, they may choose to click on the link below yours because it has a better, less robotic meta description.

How to Write a Meta Description

Writing meta descriptions is a fairly simple and straightforward process. They go in the HTML file for your web page, but will not be displayed as content on the page itself. The meta description should be placed in a <meta> tag and should have the elements and structure as shown in this simple example:

<meta name=”description” content=”Human readable description of your page goes here, following the bulleted tips listed below.”>

When writing your meta descriptions, keep these 10 important tips in mind:

  1. Give a short summary of what users will find or what they can do on your site. Are you selling products, sharing info, etc.? Tell ‘em here.
  2. Incorporate keywords and phrases.
  3. Keep your meta description below 150-155 characters. They can be longer, just keep in mind that anything above about 150 characters may get cut off depending on the results page.
  4. Tailor the descriptions to each page individually. Descriptions must match the content and be unique for each page. Don’t write just one lazy meta description and paste it into all of your pages’ HTML files—you’re better that that!
  5. Include important facts and relevant info about the page such as the page author, date written/modified, ect.
  6. It’s not necessary to repeat information that is given in the title. It will be displayed twice if it is—and that is just a waste of characters.
  7. Try to include popular terms that are specific and get lots of traffic.
  8. Place the keywords more near the beginning of your meta description.
  9. Remember that you are writing for humans. Make descriptions welcoming, interesting, and inviting.
  10. It may be helpful to include a clear call to action to help motivate users to choose your site among the other result options. Just don’t be cheesy or desperate.

Driving more online traffic and getting more visitors to your site is the ultimate goal and with meta descriptions you’ll be even closer to that goal. So start adding great meta descriptions to your web pages in a careful and concise manner and increase your online visibility.