Using HTML Descriptions Tags in Your Web Design Project


HTML Description Tags: Do You Use Them to Best Advantage?

Description Tags Explained by Web Hosting Provider

Let’s start at the beginning. A conversion is a sale. You, the web site owner, convert a visitor to a buyer. Point one.

Point two: Conversion rate or conversion ratio (same difference) are measures of the percentage of total visitors who actually make a purchase, opt in, request sales information of perform some other desired action from the total pool of visitors who reach your site.

The whole objective of a website is to convert and site owners spend hours and days tweaking their sites to optimize for conversion. But are they using all of the conversion opportunities available to them. Many aren’t.

Your First Chance to Convert is the Search Engine Results Page

A lot of marketers believe that the first chance to convert is the access page the visitor reaches via SERPs or links. Not true. If there’s a link on the SERPs to your site, and the search engine user didn’t click on it, you didn’t convert. Heck, the visitor never even saw your site.

There are a couple of suggestions for improving SERPs conversion, i.e. getting more people to click on your organic links. One is your site’s HTML <description> tag. This tag is part of a site’s Meta data and usually appears between the <Head> tag and the </Head> tag, though the actual placement is less important than what the tag contains.

The HTML syntax for creating a Meta description tag is:

<META NAME=”Description” CONTENT= “A great site to learn all about the fine art of beading. Beads from around the world.”>

Why the sales pitch? Because the content in your description tag is what appears below the SERPs link on Google, Yahoo or other search engines. Now, you’ll see some web owners stuff these description tags with keywords. Which link would you click on?

<META NAME=”Description” CONTENT= “A great site to learn all about the fine art of beading. Beads from around the world.”>


<META NAME=”Description” CONTENT= “beads, bead, beading, beading supplies, beading materials, beading hobby, beading store.”>

Stuffing description tags doesn’t make a sale. In fact, most smart web shoppers avoid these links because of the gibberish contained below the SERPs link.

The Real Functions of Description Tags…

… and how to use them to best advantage.

There’s disagreement within the SEO ranks on everything. Part of it is due to a lack of reliable science. Sure you can test, but the rules of the game change every time Google tweaks its SERPs.

One point SEOs disagree on is whether search engines give any credence to the content of description tags. In an excellent, un-cited post on HighRankings website, the writer states:

“I used to believe that the purpose of the Meta description tag was twofold: to help the page rank highly for the words that were contained within it, as well as to provide a nice description in the search engine results pages (SERPs). However, today it appears that, similar to the Meta keywords tag, the information you place in this tag is *not* given any weight in the ranking algorithms of Google, and only a tiny amount of weight in Yahoo’s.”

Conversely, Danny Sullivan posts on Search Engine Watch:

“The meta description tag allows you to influence the description of your page in the crawlers that support the tag… “

Two SEO professionals with polar views. And, if you want to take the time, you can find divergent opinions on virtually every SEO topic, despite the desire of many SEOs to create a science out of something as amorphous as search engine optimization.

However, the point isn’t which SEO is right and which is wrong. The point is that there is little hard science to back up any aspect of SEO. The best way to determine the effectiveness of description tags is to conduct simple, single-variable testing that will deliver empirical results – irrefutable metrics. Something you can rely on.

Simple A/B Testing

While the focus of this post is description tags, the application of A/B testing is useful in determining which tactics and strategies work and which don’t. There are means for multi-variant testing in which several variables are changed, but if you’re just starting out and metrics analysis isn’t all the fun you thought it would be, stick with single-variant, A/B tests on any changes to your web site. You’ll get understandable, utile results and you’ll get them quickly.

Start by using a couple of top tier keywords in your description tag. These will be highlighted on the SERPs pages as a direct hit. However, avoid description tag stuffing. Bots don’t much care for any kind of keyword stuffing because it dilutes the relevance and usefulness of the SERPs. Still, you see lots of site owners who use their description tag to stuff with keywords. (See beading examples above.)

There’s Bot Territory and Human Territory

Bots crawl the HTML or XML code used to create a web site. It’s all letter strings to these data collector agents. This is where search optimization (designed for search engine bots as the name suggests) takes place. Below anything that will be seen by a human.

Humans only see the description tag on SERPs – but they do see it. Yes, the SERPs were machine generated, but a human is looking over those links now. An attractive, two-line description and welcome will draw many more site visitors than a tag filled with keywords.

Want proof? Don’t take my word for it. A/B test it.


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