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The Meta Description Tag – the one you DO need.

Greetings from inside the SEOigloo!
This is a topic definitely worth devoting a whole blog post to, because in all forums, blogs, etc. that I visit where small web business owners are, I see repeated questions about this. Here is my attempt to address this subject once and for all.
Meta description Tag = Good
Meta Keywords Tag = Ho-hum

If the above is not illuminating, let’s start with the basics.
What are Meta Description and Meta Keywords tags?
These two bits of code are generally found at the top of the code of your web page. They look like this:
meta name=”description” content=”Hybrid Gladiolus direct from Holland. We have 72 gorgeous varieties of these spring-planted Gladioli bulbs for your gardening pleasure.”
meta name=”keywords” content=”hybrid gladiolus, gladioli bulbs, spring planting bulbs”
The first of the above tags is vital. The second is no longer judged to be of genuine importance.
Once upon a time, the meta keywords tag could be stuffed full of every possible permutation of a keyword you could think of in order to win better search engine rankings. Thank goodness the search engines are smarter than this now. Why am I glad? Because the mindset behind ‘keyword stuffing’ was spammy and I am greatly in favor of any change in Google’s algorithm (the way they value a website) that reduces low-quality, spammy pages in my search results.
So, if you’ve heard rumors that you need to focus on that meta keywords tag and put lots of great keywords in it, please turn a deaf ear and tell others to do the same. This concept of keyword stuffing reflects what was happening years ago. It does not work today.
What I use the Meta Keywords Tag For
Our firm continues to employ the meta keywords tag in the web pages we build. Chances are, we could leave it out completely, but we are still using it in the following way: we stick a couple of keyword phrases in it that our keyword research has shown we need to target on the page in question. The above example I’ve given is what our meta keywords tags look like these days, with 2 or 3 keyword phrases in them. This is for the purpose of organization…not of trying to improve search engine rankings.
Many web developers leave the meta keywords tag out completely these days. Others use it to list misspellings of the keywords their page targets.
The big point is, whatever you use it for is no longer a matter of big importance.
The Meta Description tag, however, is of big importance
Look at my example of a meta description tag. It reads a bit like a sales pitch, doesn’t it? That’s because it is! In general, Google currently uses the meta description tag as the second line of information in most search results. The first line in a result is taken from the title tag. The second line is the meta description tag. So, for this ficitious page about bulbs, my search result would read like this:
Gladiolus Bulbs
Hybrid Gladiolus direct from Holland. We have 72 gorgeous varieties of these spring-planted Gladioli bulbs for your gardening pleasure.
That meta description is like a quick advertisement for my ficitious business. It’s exciting, inviting and is intended to make folks click on my search engine listing. Taking the time to craft a unique, compelling meta description for each and every page of your website is essential, not to your rankings, but to your marketing of your business online. What you put in the tag will in no way improve your rankings. It will improve your click through rates, if done well.
Remember, the purpose of a website is not to rank well. It’s to get customers. And while better rankings certainly facilitate more traffic, the rankings themselves are not the end goal of any website. They are merely a tool you use to engage business!
So, again, the meta description tag is your window of opportunity to ‘sell’ your company’s message in a quick, compelling way so that folks will click your listing and land on your website.
In conclusion, go ahead and put a couple of things in your meta keywords tag if you want to. It won’t hurt you. DO NOT KEYWORD STUFF. Rather, spend your quality time writing excellent meta description tags for each and every page of your website.
And that’s all there is to it!