Web standard for adding page descriptions to web pages

You must add a page description to your web page's metadata. You may also choose to add keywords and/or a strapline.

Clear page descriptions are visible in search engines and help customers decided whether to open a web page or not. Keywords in metadata and in content are picked up by search engines and can improve the ranking of your page in search results.

What is metadata?

Metadata is information about web pages, images, files and any other website component. The information includes descriptions and keywords that are picked up and used by some search engines, including our internal search engines when ranking search results, and screen readers for the visually impaired.

Adding a page description to the metadata

You must add a description for your web page to the metadata. These descriptions are displayed by search engines in the search results, so that customers can read a summary of a web page and decide whether it is likely to include the information they are looking for and open the page. Descriptions are also used by screen readers to help the visually impaired understand the contents of a web page before they open it. They should be less than 160 characters long including spaces or otherwise they will be truncated when displayed in search results.

Adding a description to the metadata is an important opportunity for you to win your audience by clearly explaining the contents of the page in an engaging way.

Adding keywords to the metadata

Most external search engines will not use keywords when deciding how to rank your page in search results, but the search engine on the SCC site will. If external search engines are not returning your page in relevant searches consider including keywords within the body text of your page. If the SCC search engine isn't returning your page, consider adding keywords to the metadata tab of your page.

Compile a list of the words that customers are most likely to use to search for your page. These may not simply be words in the page title but other words that are associated with the subject of the page. Check Siteimprove for keywords in your subject area that people are using to search the public website. You can also type a phrase eg 'surrey childcare' into search engines such as Google and Bing to see what the auto text brings up. The auto text shows common searches, so it is a useful way to discover how people are searching for your web pages.

Add your list of keywords to the metadata. Keywords do not need to be capitalised. Separate keywords with commas. Consider how customers are now using keyword phrases to search, eg "bus route Epsom", rather than just single terms.

Reviewing keywords and descriptions

When reviewing your web page, always ensure you review your page descriptions and keywords as well, as new terminology may need to be added to the keywords and a significant rewrite of the page may mean the description needs to be updated.

Help with keywords and descriptions

If you want to discuss your ideas for a description, or need help deciding which keywords to use, please contact Web and Digital Services and we will be happy to advise you:

  • Tel: 020 8541 8788
  • Email: digital@surreycc.gov.uk

Why we have this web standard

This web standard is mandatory for technical, accessibility and usability reasons. By adding a page description and the right keywords to the metadata for your page and ensuring those keywords are in your content as well, you are ensuring that your page is accessible to all and is promoted above other pages with similar content in search results to reach the widest possible audience.