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.

Search engines may display a meta tag description in their search results. Having a good description can improve the chance a user will click your link and visit the site.

screenshot of page source code

How to write a good meta tag description

  • The home page description should describe the overall site
  • Non-home page descriptions should describe the content on that page
  • Use keywords from the page title but avoid duplicating the page title as the description
  • Avoid using duplicate words in the description
  • Use a unique description on each page
  • Write the description in sentence format (except when including structured data, i.e., author, date, byline)
  • Place meaningful, descriptive words near the beginning of the description
  • Keep the length to around 160 characters, anything past that may not display (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 could take a while. Begin by writing descriptions for your most important menu and landing pages.

Top Pages

  • Home
  • Academic programs
  • Program pages
  • About us
  • Graduate and undergraduate pages

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.

Home Page Meta Tag Description

Not recommended: (doesn't contain meaningful descriptive words that encourage a user to click)
Welcome to our website. On this website you will find a lot of information about...

Not recommended: (not in sentence format, contains only keywords)
Leadership, agricultural, science, agribusiness, communications, education, college, university, programs, and training.

Not recommended: (over 160 characters, snippet may get truncated)
ALEC degree programs include Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Communication, Ag Education Teaching, Hospitality Restaurant and Tourism Management, and Skilled and Technical Sciences Teaching. NHRI focuses on youth leadership development.

Recommended: (contains up to 160 characters, reads like a sentence, encourages users to click, includes descriptive keywords to describe the site)
Explore degrees in agricultural leadership, teaching and communication where students gain experience, skills and connections to make an impact on the world.

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”

Recommended: Remove the [node:summary] token in the Metatag node settings to prevent meta descriptions from being auto populated.

By default, meta tags are auto-populated on basic and article pages with the node summary. The node summary is the first three sentences found in <p> tags within the Editor— excluding HTML markup. As a result, in cases where the first text isn't a paragraph, the node summary may display text that doesn't make sense.

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, enter your meta tag description (if applicable, delete [node:summary])
  5. Click "Save"

Note: The Site hierarchy on the bottom, side navigation also has a description field. This description field is not for entering meta tags. The text entered in it displays when hovering over the menu link. It is recommended you leave this field blank.