[email protected] Site: Add a Meta Description to a Page

Please Note: This article is written for staff members who are authorized to contribute content to the [email protected] site (it.umn.edu).

Meta descriptions summarize a web page's content and are used by search engines when the phrase searched for is in the meta description. They don't help improve search rankings directly, but can help web page authors move a page up in search results.

When to Use

On most pages on the [email protected] (it.umn.edu) site, the body text is used as the meta description. This is usually sufficient. But if a page is the most important one related to a topic and it is not appearing in the first few search results, a content contributor can first try adding the words users might search for naturally into the text on the page. If this doesn't improve search rankings enough, contact your web content coordinator for assistance. They can help you add a meta description to the page.


Write a Meta Description

Follow the principles outlined in How to Create the Right Meta Description on the Yoast site:

  • It should be around 135 to 160 characters.
  • It should be actionable, in an active voice.
  • It should include a call-to-action.
  • It could contain structured content.
  • It should match the content.
  • It should contain the focus keyword.
  • The meta description should be unique.

Add to Drupal Page

  1. Go to http://it.umn.edu/saml_login and sign in with your University Internet ID and password.
  2. Select Content and search for the page to which you want to add the meta description.
  3. Select the Edit link or tab.
  4. Select the Meta tags tab near the bottom of the page.
  5. Type the meta description in the Description field. 
    Meta tags field in Drupal for an IT@UMN site page
  6. Select the Save button.


We added the following meta description to the Technology Help page so that users searching for "tech helpline" would find it near the top of the list:

Get tech support from helpline staff: Call 612-301-4357 (1-HELP), chat, visit walk-in locations (formerly Tech Stop), email, or contact specialists.

Before we added the meta description, the page did not appear in the first five search results.

[email protected] Site Search Results Before

first three IT@UMN site search results for "tech helpline" before we added a meta description

[email protected] Site Search Results After

After we added the meta description, the Technology Help page appeared at the top of the search results.

Please note that the first part of the body content text appears in the search results after the link to the page, and not the meta description.

IT@UMN site search results for "tech helpline" after we added a metadescription

When the Meta Description Will Display in Search Results

When you search for keywords that are found only in the meta description, the meta description text will appear instead of the body content text in both the [email protected] site search results (first sample below) and external search engine results (second example below).

first two IT@UMN site search results for "'tech support' helpline"

first three Google search results for "tech support university of minnesota"