Every page on your website should be targeting one or more search terms. If that sounds like an overwhelming task, I’ve described how to prioritise the job in a previous SEO Wednesday article. The key element is probably the page title, but although less important, there’s also a role for the description meta tag.
Think of this as the supporting text for the title. Indeed, the main place you’ll see the description meta tag is underneath the title in the Google results, and it’s not even guaranteed to show there. Couple this with the fact that the contents of the description meta tag don’t appear to count towards the page relevance in the search engines any longer, and you might wonder if it’s worth bothering with at all (like the keywords meta tag). I still think it is, and if you’re going to the effort of writing a good page title, you may as well write a corresponding description meta tag at the same time. If Google does use your description under the title of your page in its results, it can prove to be a compelling combination in terms of attracting people to click on it. If you just leave Google to find any old text to show, it’s a wasted opportunity.
If you have got a description meta tag on a web page, you can normally see it in Google by entering the web page address into a search, like the example above. Try it with your home page, or even internal pages on your site. Does it work in conjunction with the page title? That’s its main function. The title above it will, I hope, contain the most important search term for the page; the description lines need to repeat that search term and explain what’s on the page and why people should click on it. You’ve got up to 160 characters, approximately. Use them wisely.
If you want to read a lot more, start with The Meta Description Tag on High Rankings.