A Meta Description Tag is a 120-160 characters in length, kind of like a movie trailer in tweet form. Actually, for WordPress the maximum is 156 characters. You can use more than 160 characters, but Google, Bing, or whichever search engine is being used will truncate the rest…you will get the read more tag, which very few people actually click on, so it is important to keep it short.
What Google Says about Meta Description Tag:
According to Google, “neither Meta Descriptions nor Meta keywords factor into Google’s ranking algorithms for web search.” However, Meta tags are imperative to get the reader’s attention in Search Engine Result Pages (SERP). It is a quick blurb that tells the reader if that web page contains what they are looking for. http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/meta-description-tag
Keywords are a must, of course, but this short blurb must catch the reader’s attention quickly. So, if your webpage, blog or article is the history of Fenway Park, your Meta Description Tag would read something like this:
In the heart of Boston, Fenway Park is the home of the Red Sox. Built in 1912, the oldest MLB Park in America; featuring the Green Monster a 37 foot high green wall fence in left field.
This is 149 characters and tells the reader what they are going to find on that page, an article about Fenway Park.
Check Word Count:
To keep from physically counting the characters every time, if you are working in Word, highlight the paragraph you want to make your Meta Description tag, click Review, then click Word Count on the tool bar, and that will give you the number of characters used. There will be two entries, the first states (no spaces), while the other states (with spaces). Using the one without spaces will give you the number you want to use.
Not to be overly dramatic, but the Meta Description tag is your “window to the world,” OK, maybe that is a little overly dramatic, but it’s very close to the truth. In that short paragraph you have a chance to bring the reader into your website. Your words alone will determine if you get that customer to come into your store or not, so make sure your store front is appealing.
Do not use quotes or special characters, like $ or % off in your Meta Description as this will cause Google to cut off the description.
It is not always necessary to write a Meta Description tag, as search engine indices automatically grab keywords from your page and create what is basically the equivalent. But, do you want to take the chance that a robot will choose the right words to pull customers through your “window to the world?”