SEO Tips: Is the meta description still important? Yes it can appear on the results page

SEO Tips Is the meta description still important Yes it can appear on the results pageMeta tags seem to have gone out of fashion since Penguin & Panda…

…but the description tag is still a powerful force to drive in traffic from the search results page

Google’s ongoing algorithm updates, especially Penguin and Panda, which affected a large number of websites, seems to have left a lot of people thinking the traditional SEO techniques such as editing and updating meta tags, have become largely irrelevant, and therefore not worth spending any time over.

Far from true

In my view this is far from true. I agree that Google not longer takes account of the meta keyword tag, but the title and description tag are still worth investing time in, to individually edit them for each page on your website.

Why? For the simple reason that when the title and description tag have been edited well, Google may use them on the search results page as the link people click on to go to your page, and the description they read to decided whether to visitor your page or click on one of your competitors links.

If you don’t take the time to edit them, Google will just pick snippets

If you don’t go to the trouble of editing these tags, Google will simply pick snippets of text from the page and use those instead, and these are unlikely to be as convincing as the words you compose yourself.

Here’s an example of why it works

As an example of this, I did a simple search for ‘office stationery’ in Google. Of the top 5 results, in which all of the meta descriptions had been completed so Google had the option to use it or not, Google had chosen to use the meta description as completed, rather than pick snippets from the text of the page. Obviously this gives these companies the most control over the words that are appearing on Google results page.

How to write an effective meta description tag?

Given that the meta description tag is still important, the obvious question to ask is: what’s the best way to write it? Below I’ve outlined a simple formula I use.

[s2If current_user_is(subscriber)][/s2If] [s2If !is_user_logged_in()][/s2If] [s2If current_user_can(access_s2member_level1)]

First thing to note is you only have around 155 characters, that’s around 20 words. So you’ve got to be quite focused on getting the message across. The main points to consider are:

  • An outline or summary of what the page is about
  • A reason to read the content or the benefit from reading it
  • A short call to action of why you need to read it

Obviously it takes time and practice to perfect this, so to give you a few ideas I’ve included a few example below from ReallySimpleSEO:

This example is from the homepage. It shows a strong call to action to visit the page and some of the reasons why.

This example is from the homepage. It shows a strong call to action to visit the page and some of the reasons why.

 

In this example people learn about the SEO & PPC guides and why they should download them.

In this example people learn about the SEO & PPC guides and why they should download them.

 

In this example it mentions the benefits of the book and how reading it can improve results.

In this example it mentions the benefits of the book and how reading it can improve results.

More help in my 30 Day SEO Challenge

Still not quite sure about meta descriptions? I’ve written a much more detailed tutorial in my 30 Day SEO Challenge. You can find it on Day 5.

[/s2If] [s2If !current_user_can(access_s2member_level1)]

[/s2If]


Comments

SEO Tips: Is the meta description still important? Yes it can appear on the results page — 2 Comments

  1. Hi Brian,
    Thanks for the comment, that’s very helpful as it’s something I hadn’t covered.

    Yes, it would be useful, to have a better idea of the parameters Google uses when selecting snippets. Maybe I’ll look into that for a future post.

  2. You quote “if the title and description tag have been edited well, Google MAY use them on the search results page”.
    This is true but do you know what determines if it is displayed or not?
    I’ll tell you it depends on the rest of the page text,
    Take an index landing page with little text then the search results have no choice other than to use the META description, in contrast a page with lots of text, google will select part of it.
    Then the question becomes how dose google select what text to use?
    Another subject

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