December 4 2010
Posted by Scott Upton | No Comments »
Search engines have become more complex, creating new algorithms and formulas regularly in order to try and improve the relevance and accuracy of search engine results. An unfortunate side effect to this is that many website marketing pros have begun to neglect the Meta Description, assuming it’s no longer crucial. Although the basic definition of a Meta Description is simply a summary of what the page is about, this simplistic explanation leaves out a lot of information.
Successful website marketing works when you’re ranking high in the search engines and you have plenty of click-through to your site. Lose one or the other, and your website marketing efforts will hit a wall. A great Meta Description is one of the few website marketing tools that truly targets both search engines and the human reader. No matter how high you rank based on your Meta Description, if readers look at it and think it’s boring, confusing, or simply doesn’t tell them what they want to know, you’re toast. On the other hand, if you have a compelling description that will encourage people to click through to your site, but it doesn’t have relevant keywords, searchers may never find it.
Meta Descriptions Are A Website Marketing Balancing Act
Don’t spend hours, weeks, or even months on creating a new web page, and then slap a boring or poorly conceived Meta Description on it. Great website marketing is still successful in the search engines. Your Meta Description is crucial in two ways: It summarizes your content in concise, easy language. It is also a subtle form of advertising, encouraging the reader to go to your site. Keep the word “subtle” in mind when writing your Meta Descriptions. This isn’t the place to scream, “Buy the world’s most awesome gadget!” That comes on your purchase page, not here. Sometimes website marketing is most successful when it is understated but strong. Solid information is what people are looking for in Meta Descriptions, not a sales pitch.
Your website marketing Meta Description must also capture search results, so relevant keywords are important. Refine your list of keywords or keyword phrases, selecting two or three that will push your Meta Description to the top of search engines while still conveying strong, relevant information for readers. How do you do all that in a short amount of space? Careful crafting keeping certain guidelines in mind:
- Know the golden standard for Meta Description length. Google, still the leader in search, also has the shortest parameters for a Meta Description at 160 characters. Resist the urge to write something longer; if you can’t fit the keywords and a brief summary into 160 characters, you’re rambling. Don’t give up valuable space, either. You should use as many of the 160 characters as you can. Keep the phrase, “Closest without going over” in mind when website marketing through Meta Descriptions. It should also be known that if you don’t include a Meta Description or if Google feels a better description for your page could be given by using a web snippet, and then the description shown can be up to 320 characters. Of course, they won’t be the characters that you choose so they might not best represent what you wish your audience to see in the SERP’s (Search Engine Result Page)!
- Use at least two keywords or phrases. These are bold when the Meta Description pops up in a SERP and you want them to be easily spotted. Website marketing studies have shown that searchers assume a site is more relevant than others if the Meta Description uses the keyword in at least two places. But don’t go overboard – simply listing long strings of keywords turns a valuable Meta Description into a laundry list, which will frustrate some readers and confuse others. Website marketing is about being concise but clear.
- Know how much description is appropriate. The phrase, “award winning flower arrangements” is highly descriptive and compelling. Saying “We have the freshest, brightest, most beautiful flowers in the state” seems like hyperbole and doesn’t actually have any solid information. A good balance between keywords and descriptors is best.
- Know how to use the sentences in your Meta Description as website marketing tools. Your first sentence should indicate what your site is about (your product or service). The second sentence should tell the reader what to do, whether that’s ordering your product, getting more information from your website, or signing up for your newsletter. You should use a keyword or phrase in both sentences.
- Put your strongest keywords in the first 50 characters. Website marketing should always take into account that people have short attention spans. They want to look at your Meta Description and immediately know what you have to offer. If you can lead with a keyword, even better as Google gives more value to keywords which appear first. This is called “Keyword Prominence”
Your website marketing can be incredibly effective if you use well-crafted Meta Descriptions. And remember, website marketing isn’t just about your home page. Take the time to develop relevant Meta Descriptions for every one of your pages.