One of the biggest challenges of being in the business of optimizing websites for the search engines is keeping up to date each time they change their ranking algorithms. It is believed that Google analyzes more than 200 factors (or “signals” as they’re called in the biz) when crawling a page to determine its rank.
With each algorithm update, signals are added or dropped, and the importance of the each of these factors is adjusted. The search engines make these changes in an ongoing effort to improve their user’s experience and satisfaction with the results.
For example, there was a time when the contents of the meta “keywords” tag in a page’s source code was a critical ranking factor. Now, the search engines give it little to no regard. This occurred primarily due to abuse of the tag; website owners would “stuff” the tag with repeated keywords in an effort to game the search engines.
The meta description is the text that appears immediately below each link in the search results page and it’s almost always read by searchers as they peruse the listings. It’s important to write an appealing and inviting description about the page in order to convince the searcher that your site is the best site to visit.
If you fail to write your own description, Google will take a snippet from the first text appearing on your page and create its own. It’s quite likely that the first few sentences on your home page won’t necessarily be the best ones to draw the searcher into your site.
The description tag should be roughly 160 characters in length because in most cases that’s the point at which Google will truncate (show ‘…’) the text. So strictly speaking, for SEO, the meta description tag is no longer a signal. However, it is still important when it comes to converting searchers to visitors!
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