Like your product title, the short description you develop for your product also serves as an essential tool in introducing customers to your content.

By writing an effective title and product description, you will ensure products are discovered and utilized both by existing customers searching the Extension website for information, and by individuals who are introduced to Penn State Extension products while using Google and other search engines.

On the Extension website, the product description will be the first block of text that will display below the product title on each individual product information page. When your product comes up in search engine results, the product summary description, along with its title, will display in the results list. Your summary description should be concise and engaging, and it should provide a summary of what customers will learn and gain from using the product - the description is more than a listing of the concepts addressed in the product - it is a short advertising pitch to the reader. The following are some tips to keep in mind as you write a summary description for articles, workshops, Learn Now videos, or other products you manage.

Best Practices

Descriptive Summary, Including Keywords

First and foremost, your summary should briefly and accurately describe what educational content is included in your product. To make it even more valuable when your product appears in search engine results, you should include 1 or 2 keywords or keyword phrases relevant to your content, which your target audience is likely to use for searches on your topic.

To do so, you can use an online keyword search tool such as the Google Keyword Planner to research what keyword phrases are most popular for your topic. Once you have your preferred keywords in mind, where possible, place those that are most descriptive or most likely to be searched for, toward the beginning of your description.

Using Keywords Appropriately

When choosing the keywords you'll include in your summary, also consider what you've already accomplished in the product title. There could be ways to make the title and description work in conjunction - for instance, if there is an alternative keyword phrase you could not fit in your title, you might use it in your description if it is relevant to summarizing the product. Just remember not to insert keywords just for the sake of doing so - use them if they are appropriate for describing your product, and do not use them in repetition throughout your title and description.

Summary Description Length

The maximum length for the summary should be 150-160 characters (generally around 23-25 words), including spaces; search engine results will cut-off descriptions that are longer than this.

Explain What Your Product Will Deliver

The summary description is your first opportunity to speak to the customer. Tell your customer what the product will do for them, how they will interact with it, or what special deliverable they'll gain by using the product. You might accomplish this by using words that speak to the customer and direct action - for instance, the first sentence of a description might be:

"Learn how to manage [insert challenge] in your dairy herd." or

"Discover [insert management practice] for improving your crop yields."

Stick To Essentials

Remember that on each Extension product page, the summary is the lead written description, but there are many additional fields you will complete in the content management system, that will contribute further details to the product page, such as the product type (article, video, webinar, publication, course, training event), and an itemized list of the educational content and various target audiences ("What will you learn" / "Who is this for") for products like events and online courses.

When considering the short character length limit for your description, this means you won't need to use valuable space to repeat these other product attributes - you can instead focus on writing a pithy description that briefly summarizes the content and strongly appeals to the customer. It's also good to use your limited words wisely, without "wasting" space on non-essential or conversational phrases (ex: "Watch out! This invasive species isn't slowing down…"); instead, in your description, focus on giving substantial information about the product.

Use Only Alphanumeric Characters

Avoid including special characters ($ or & or @ or % or ! or # or " ") in your description, since special characters are not recognized by search engines. You'll especially want to avoid including double quotation marks, as these characters signal non-text instructions to search engines, which could result in your product description being cut-off in search results.

Examples of Short Product Descriptions

Example #1

Product Title - Municipal Tree Commissions: Work Plans

Summary Description - Develop an annual work plan for a community tree commission. Follow easy steps to schedule public tree maintenance for healthy, safe and attractive green space.

Why this works - This short description tells customers they'll create a deliverable, a community tree work plan, through using this educational resource; the description also utilizes alternative keyword phrases that various audiences might use including "municipal tree commission," "community tree commission," "tree maintenance," and "green space."

Example #2

Product Title - Planting Green - A New Cover Crop Management Technique

Summary Description - Learn how this no-till farming practice can turn primary crops like corn and soybeans into cover crops, and improve soil conservation and pest management.

Why this works - This title and short description clearly tells the audience what they will learn from the product and incorporates multiple keyword phrases such as "planting green," "cover crops," "no-till farming," "soil conservation" and "pest management," and also previews which field crops customers might plant in this process.

Example #3

Product Title - Pesticide Applicator Certification Core Manual

Summary Description - Prepare to take the National Pesticide Applicator Certification Core Exam, using this study guide for pesticide applicators, which includes a practice exam.

Why this works - This short description appeals to customers searching for resources or study guides for test preparation using either the keywords of "Pesticide Applicator Certification," or the title of the core exam, and previews that this resource includes a practice exam.