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Many people are afraid to write the meta tags for their websites, thinking that they would have to be search engine optimization specialists in order to do it properly. While you may not have any special expertise in the field of search engine optimization, you should be an expert in your own business’s area of activity, and if you combine this knowledge with some simple guidelines you can write accurate meta tags. Let us see how to write one of the most important meta tags, the description tag.

The description tag is one of the "big three" meta tags, which also include the title tag, and the keywords tag. These three meta tags along with other tags are located in the html code of your website between the sections marked <head> and </head>. While this information is not seen on your web page when someone views your site with a browser, the head section is read by the search engine "robots" and helps the search engines to "understand" what your web page is all about.

Writing the description tag is a good exercise because it will force you to become clear about what you are doing and what you are offering to your viewers. A description tag is in fact like a short mission statement, explaining your enterprise in a nutshell. If someone wakes you in the middle of the night and asks you what your website or your business is all about, you should be able to answer with a concise two or three sentence description without any hesitation.

Here is step-by-step guide to creating and using effective description tags:

1. Write like a journalist. Mention the important W’s, such as who, what, where, when, why. In a description tag, the "what" is the most important element. What do you do? What do you sell? Where do you do it? What is this page all about? Describe what you do in a simple sentence and be sure to incorporate the words and phrases which are most likely to be used when people search for your product or service.

Suppose your business is the Kenosha Wisconsin Window Cleaning Company. A description tag for your main page might start off like this: The Kenosha Wisconsin Window Cleaning Company provides window cleaning services for residences and businesses in the greater Kenosha, Wisconsin area.

2. Include your Unique Selling Proposition or USP: The USP is actually the "why" of the classic "who, what, where and why" formula. Why should someone use your service and not someone else’s? The USP is what sets you apart from the others.

Remember when someone makes a query in a search engine yours will not be the only site that comes up. Your competitors will also be there, and they will offer similar products or services. In many search engines the description tag or part of the description tag is displayed in the search results. If your description tag provides some distinctive information, conveying a unique benefit that you provide, then the likelihood that a searcher will click through to your site will increase.

Let’s go back to the example of the Kenosha Window Cleaning site and add the USP to the description. The first lines of the description read: "The Kenosha Wisconsin Window Cleaning Company provides window cleaning services for residences and businesses in the greater Kenosha, Wisconsin area." Another sentence saying "We guarantee a great job every time at a price you can afford," could be added to give more detail about the quality, guarantee and the affordability of the service.

3. Put this description in the meta tag section of the head and in the text of the page itself.

You’ve just taken some time to explain what your web page is all about, and have included some compelling reason why someone should buy your product or service. Don’t hide this information in a place where your readers cannot see it. If you only put the description in the meta tag section, then the search engine robots will see it but many of your visitors will not.

Rather, use your description as part of your first paragraph or even as part of your opening headline. Your description contains your important key phrase and key words. If you place it in the opening paragraph or somewhere on your page, then the search engine optimization value of the description is doubled or even tripled. A big mistake in search engine optimization is to use meta tags, but then have no descriptive text on the page, relying on images to convey the message. Use the description tag to begin your text, and add some more to amplify it and expand on what you have written.

4. Write a distinct description tag for each of your pages, focusing on the unique content and purpose of that particular page.

Another big mistake on many websites is to use the same meta tags on all the pages. Each of your pages is different. Each page has or should have a special item of importance. Look at your pages and think of the special part that the page plays in your overall marketing effort, and make a unique description tag. As with the description tag for your main page, put this description within the text of the page itself.

Even if you get a professional search engine optimization service to write the main meta tags for your site, you can put this knowledge into practice whenever you add new pages to your site. Good description tags will help your site to be found in search engine queries, and when used as part of the main text of your pages will also help your web visitors to quickly understand your most important marketing messages.

This Web Marketing article was written by Donald Nelson on 3/22/2005

Donald Nelson is a web developer, editor and social worker. He has been working on the Internet since 1995, and is currently the director of A1-Optimization (, a firm providing low cost search engine optimization, submission and web promotion services.