Meta Tags

Written by: Anne Holz | IANR Media

A meta tag description is a snippet of text that briefly describes a page's content. It doesn’t display on your site but can be seen in the <head></head>when viewing a page’s source code. It's also seen and used by search engines. Because a search engine may choose to display a meta tag description in its search results, it's best practice to write goods ones. Although they don't affect your search results ranking, they may improve the chance of a user clicking a link to visit your site.

screenshot of page source code

What is a good meta tag description?

  • The home page meta tag description should describe the overall site
  • Non-home page meta tag descriptions should accurately describe the content on that specific page
  • Avoid repeating the page title as the meta tag description
  • Avoid duplicating words in the meta tag description
  • Do not list a bunch of keywords as your meta tag description
  • Do not use the same meta tag description on multiple pages—each page should have its own unique meta tag description
  • Write descriptions in sentence format with the exception of when including structured data, i.e., author, date, byline
  • Descriptions are truncated after about 150-160 characters so start your sentence off strong with meaningful, descriptive words. In Microsoft Word, under “Tools” you can select “word count” to view the character count of selected text. 

If you have hundreds of pages on your site, writing a meta tag description for each can take a while. Start by writing descriptions for pages that get the most traffic, like your home page.  

Once you've added a meta tag description, it immediately displays in your site’s source code however, it may take a week or more before it will display in search results. 

Meta Tag Description Examples

Not recommended:
Welcome to our website. On this website you will find a lot of information about...

Not recommended:
Leadership, agricultural, science, agribusiness, communications, education, college, university, programs, and training.

Explore career opportunities in agricultural leadership, education and communication at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

When keywords entered in a search match keywords in a meta tag description, the words are bolded in the search results. Bolded text helps users identify which results are the most relevant to their search.
screenshot of search results with bolded matching text

Adding Meta Tags in UNLcms

To add a meta tag description in UNLcms, the "Metatag" module must be turned on.

Turn on "Metatag" module

  1. Click on “Modules” on the black toolbar
  2. Search for "metatag" in the filter list
  3. Click the toggle to display “ON” and click “Save Configuration”

By default meta tags are auto populated with the node summary. The node summary is the first snippet of text entered in the Editor, excluding HTML markup. In some cases this may work fine as a meta tag description. In other cases, where the first text on the page isn't a paragraph, the node summary may display as a string of words that don't make sense together.

You can overwrite a default meta tag description by deleting the node summary token and adding your own text in its place.

Add meta tag description on home page

  1. To edit your home page description, click “configuration” on the administration toolbar (black)
  2. Under the “SEARCH AND METADATA” heading, click “Metatag”
  3. Next to Global: Front page click “override” 
  4. In the description field, enter your meta tag description
  5. Click “save”

screenshot of global front page add meta tags page

Add meta tag description on all other pages

  1. With the "Metatag" module turned on, go to the page you want to add a meta tag description on and click the “Edit” tab
  2. Scroll down to the bottom of the page
  3. On the left side navigation click “Meta tags”
  4. In the "Description" field, delete [node:summary] and enter your meta tag description
  5. Click "Save"

The Site hierarchy on the side navigation also has a description field. This description field is not for entering meta tags, it has a different purpose.