The PurpleInternet Marketing Series: The Ten Biggest Search Engine Optimisation Mistakes – No.3: Wrong Meta Description

The web page description can be found in the Meta Tag section of the page header. This is a section that is commonly missed out or not used to its full potential.

This web page description is used by search engines to provide a description underneath the clickable page title link in their search results.

For example, if you search for ‘buildyourownbusiness’ on Google the you will see that the website (one of the first results) shows the description ‘Business Articles – Latest business news and management advice on how best to build your own business – Free, independent business articles on Strategy, …’ underneath the clickable title. This description is taken from the Meta Tag Description.

As you can see by viewing the source code of that web page, the last part of the Meta Description is actually missed out by the search engine. It therefore must be remembered that website designers have no direct control over the format of what actually appears in search engine results.

The Meta Description should contain an enticing and informative snapshot of what the website its about. However, it must appeal to as many people as possible. And this means to as many search engines as possible.

While Google tends to ‘chop off’ a page description after approximately 150 characters, other search engines may allow as much as 225 characters. MSN on the other hand often take the initial 100 characters from the Meta Description, and use content that it deems to be more relevant to the search query from the web page in question to complete their description of the same web page.

For example, the description listed on MSN for the same page is as follows: ‘Business Articles – Latest business news & management advice on how best to build your own business … Choose an RSS feed topic: ….. Latest …’.

The best Meta Descriptions are therefore written with these variables in mind. The description should make sense, convey all the relevant information about the web page and entice the reader to reader to view the page no matter how much of the description is seen.

In addition, it is also worthwhile placing one pertinent keyword phrase within the Meta Description. This, among other things confirms to search engines that your web page is pertinent to a particular user’s search.

When you write your Meta Description, make it around 225 characters long (including spaces). Make sure that the first 100 characters contain your keyword phrase. Make sure that the first 100 characters act as a meaningful and enticing phrase on their own. Likewise, the first 150 characters as well as the full description should stand up effectively by themselves.

If you use your Meta Description to its full potential, not only will you be providing a decent description of your web page, you will also be improving your search engine rankings for your keyword phrases as well as getting a better ‘click through rate’ when people discover your site through a search engine search.

Contact David Bain at

Tomorrow: The PurpleInternet Marketing Series: The Ten Biggest Search Engine Optimisation Mistakes – No.4: Wrong Meta Keywords .

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