Saturday, November 18, 2006

The importance of the meta description tag

The meta description tag tends to get overlooked far too much. It’s one of those SEO things that usually gets left to the last minute. Easy to do, just a description of what the site/page is about, no problem. Or is it? I personally think that this tag is of far greater importance than most SEO gives it credit for. Why? Read on.

Basically if you think about it the meta description tag is your FREE ad! If you have experience in running a pay per click campaign I’m sure you have put a lot of thought into what the PPC ad says. The ad is what distinguish you from all the other PPC ads right? So why should it be any different in the organic SERPs? The title tag is your free headline and the meta description tag is your FREE ad, this is where you have a chance to ad hook someone in. How many times have you searched for something, got to the results and been put off by the description, it can’t possibly be what you were looking for!!?

Now, this isn’t the only reason why a meta description tag is important! I’m a firm believer that most search engines (especially Google) use CTR as part of their algorithm. Let’s say you can have optimised your website perfectly for your top keywords, you get to the top of Google and then…FALL. Why? Because your meta description tag wasn’t descriptive or interesting enough to make the user actually click through to your site from the organic result. Now, if you on the other hand had a relevant, descriptive and interesting meta description tag the user would be more likely to click through to your site. If it were to work as it does with PPC (I’m not saying it definitely does, but I think it does) the higher CTR (click through rate) you have the more you get “rewarded” by Google. The more targeted my PPC ads are to the relevant keywords the higher the CTR gets and I get a higher position for less CPC. That’s my theory anyway.

So to sum it up, I believe by writing a good meta description and title tag, you get a higher CTR, more click throughs, thus more traffic. Bob's your uncle…

The two Golden rules for writing a successful meta description tag:

- Keep it short. It will only look crap if your description tag gets cut off half way through a sentence. A good length meta description tag is under 150 characters.

- Keep it relevant. Don’t get too carried away with the ad hook, keep it clear, simple and most important relevant to the page. (I recommend you write a different meta description tag for each page on your site, to maximise CTR)

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At November 21, 2006 7:39 am, Blogger Darren Moloney said...

I like your idea of your description tag being an Ad. Have to admit I do sometimes occasionally slip over the 150 maximum character "allowance"... :(

At November 21, 2006 7:54 am, Blogger Lisa Ditlefsen said...

morning Darren! Thanks for your comment. Yeah it's very easy to slip over the 150 character limit, well it's not really a limit as such it's just that a sentence will get cut off. As long as you have you primary message at the start it doesn't matter that much. Although I still think it's cleaner and nicer when you can read the whole message =)

At December 03, 2006 1:42 pm, Anonymous Kai said...

I couldn't agree more! Paying attention to the basics, such as meta tags, relevant content, non-flash design, etc. will automatically yield great results. Other techniques, such as rapid link building, are pretty risky and could land sites in the "sandbox".

At February 21, 2007 3:15 pm, Blogger james said...

You're probably right on the money about Google keeping track of click through rates for their organic serp's. It's difficult to imagine that they would use a quality score algorithm in paid listing and not in their main results.

Quality Score = (keyword's CTR, ad text relevance, keyword relevance, landing page relevance)*

At February 22, 2007 9:58 am, Blogger Lisa Ditlefsen said...

hi James =)

Yeah totally, wouldn't make sense to use quality score on AdWords and not on organic results.

Thanks for commenting.


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