When you create Web content, you’re writing for RESULTS. You want your content to be found, so you get a return on the time and energy you’ve spent in creating it.
There’s no guarantee of course, but creating metadata helps the search engines to index your content, so it’s worthwhile. I’m mildly obsessive about webpage metadata. Basically, metadata is just data about your data. In webpage terms, mostly we’re talking about page titles, page descriptions, keywords, and author meta tags. If you’re a total obsessive, you can push the boat out with schema.org, of course – go wild. :-)
Before Hummingbird, using meta tags gave you some sense of control of your search engine rankings. A few Google updates revealed how spurious that sense was. Nevertheless, meta tags are still important.
A tip: your meta tag page title can be different from your page headline. This is often useful, because you can grab attention with your page headline, and write a page title which makes sense to the search engines.
Let’s see how this works in practice.
I searched Google for my name and “headline copywriting” to find an article I wrote a few days ago. You can see it in the results, below.
The page description is the post’s first sentence. I could have created a totally different page description, if I had a reason to do that.
In some cases, depending what your goal for the content happens to be, you could do that. I’ve always considered the page description to be a mini-ad for your content, because it shows up in the SERPS (search engine results for a query.)
Should you write special descriptions for all your pages?
If you’re using WordPress, there are endless SEO plugins you can use. I’m used to All In One SEO Pack, so I use that. However, Yoast is also popular.
A plugin makes creating meta tags easy. Want a different page description from the one which the search engines will grab from the page automatically? Easy. Write your own.
In the image below, you can see All In One SEO Pack’s options when you’re writing a blog post.
Just fill in the meta data, crafting your own page description, and a better page title for the search engines, and you’re done.
I tend to fill in the meta tags whenever I write a blog post. A student asked whether it was always essential to create a page description. My response was that since it was easy, you might as well.
Now Google engineer Matt Cutts has created a video which answers the question authoritatively as far as Google’s concerned, so it’s worth watching. Your questions about page descriptions answered. :-)
FWIW, here’s the page description meta tag I created for this blog post:
Creating Web content? Page metadata can help your content to be found. Create a page description meta tag; WordPress SEO plugins can help.
Creating your own page descriptions depends on your goals for your content, and it may help your results, so think about a description for your page either before, or after you’ve written it.