The following series is pulled from a presentation I gave to a group of beauty bloggers hosted by L'Oreal in New York. Most of the presentation is geared toward how to make a blog more search engine and user-friendly, however I will expand many of the concepts here to include tips and strategies for sites selling products or services across all industries.
Meta Description Tag
One of the big misconceptions about SEO is that everything we do is designed to increase search engine rankings. This isn't (or shouldn't be) true, and there is no simpler example of that then the Meta Description tag. Even though this description tag doesn't weigh all that heavily into the search engine ranking algorithms, it is still a very powerful part of an effective optimization campaign.
Like the Title Tag, the Meta Description tag will often show up in the search results. Generally what you see in the SERPs is the clickable title link and then the description tag or page snippet just below it. If the description is pulled in to the results, it becomes a very important part of helping entice visitors to click on the link into your site.
If your description tag fails to properly or adequately tell your visitors whats on the page then it's likely they'll click on another result.
The reason why many people don't put much stock into the description tag is because they are stuck on the belief that people click on rankings, not on search results. This isn't true. Sure, more people click on sites that rank higher, but only if those sites also have compelling titles and descriptions, which is often not the case. Few people blindly click links without first vetting them, and those that do often find themselves disappointed if they do.
Those who take the time to look through the search results, reading titles and descriptions to find the site that is most likely to give them what they are looking for, are more likely to be a targeted visitor one they land on your site.
If you're like me then you read descriptions before the title tags in the search results. I figure it's easy to stuff the main keywords in the title, but the description is more likely to have some of the longer tail phrases that I'm looking for. If the title matches my search broadly, the description should match much more specifically. If it doesn't then I'm probably looking at the wrong result.
The general rule is that you want each of your description tags to be unique. The description should b e a 20-40 word summary of what the visitor will expect to find on that page, and that page only. Descriptions for each page should be unique from the next. Make sure you summarize the page in a unique way, using primary and secondary keywords while making it compelling to searchers.
You don't always want or need a description tag on every page. There are some instances when you would be better served not having a description at all. For me, the general rule is if you're targeting broader keywords, use the description tag. If you're targeting long-tail keywords then don't.
The reasoning here is that if you're going after long-tail phrases on an article page or blog post, then there are simply too many variations to attempt to work them into a 40-word description. On the other hand, if those long-tail words are in the content, without the description tag, the search engine will import snippets from the page based on the search. This increases your likelihood of getting actual keywords into the description content below the clickable link in the search results.
Meta Keywords Tag
The only thing there is to say about the Meta Keyword tag is that there isn't much to say about it. The search engines don't put much, if any, stock in it and your visitors don't see it. By all measures its invisible.
But that doesn't keep people from asking, Do I use commas or spaces? Do I use phrases or words? How long should the keyword tag be?
The answer is: It doesn't matter. If you are going to take the time to add the meta keywords tag to your pages then I suggest this: don't waste your valuable time worrying about the "right" way to write it. Throw a few keywords in there and walk away. Don't worry about formatting, spacing, commas, length or anything like that. Keep is short, sweet and move on.
Missed a part of this series?
Part 1: Everything You Need To Know About SEO
Part 2: Everything You Need To Know About Title Tags
Part 3: Everything You Need To Know About Meta Description and Keyword Tags
Part 4: Everything You Need To Know About Heading Tags and Alt Attributes
Part 5: Everything You Need To Know About Domain Names
Part 6: Everything You Need To Know About Search Engine Friendly URLs & Broken Links
Part 7: Everything You Need To Know About Site Architecture and Internal Linking
Part 8: Everything You Need To Know About Keywords
Part 9: Everything You Need To Know About Keyword Core Terms
Part 10: Everything You Need To Know About Keyword Qualifiers
Part 11: Everything You Need To Know About SEO Copywriting
Part 12: Everything You Need To Know About Page Content
Part 13: Everything You Need To Know About Links
Part 14: Everything You Need To Know About Link Anatomy
Part 15: Everything You Need To Know About Linking
Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.
If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.
Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.
Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.
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