by Jesse Laffen
Google has told webmasters that there is a part of your site that has no material effect on your ranking, and since, many webmasters and SEOs are ignoring it. They’re wrong, and you can take advantage of it.
In the early days of SEO, much was made of optimizing meta descriptions. As search engines evolved and on-page factors became less important, the weight attributed to these descriptions faded into oblivion. Today, Google has said outright that meta descriptions have no bearing at all in their ranking algorithm.
Ignore them, however, at your own peril, because meta descriptions are just as important than ever.
In an ideal world, we would be able to display a lot of content to search engine users trying to choose between links. Wouldn’t it be great if we could talk to the user, telling them why they need to choose our site instead of that wikipedia page or some competitor’s?
We can. And now that Google has categorically denied any ranking benefit to the words within your meta description, you can craft the most clever, appealing, perfectly-crafted piece of marketing copy and display it to everyone looking for what you offer.
In practice, SEO is about making more money through your site, and all the rankings in the world don’t mean a thing unless the users searching for those queries actually click through to your site. So, while Google may have taken away a tiny, tiny part of your pages ranking factor by eliminating the meta description from its ranking algorithm, it’s given you a world of opportunity to entice users to your site from a search engine results page.
How to craft an optimized meta description.
1. Use your value propositions.
Your value propositions are the unique qualities of your product or service that differentiate you from your competition. Do your widgets include certain add-ons? Are your widgets less expensive? Do they glow in the dark? Tell your audience why they want to visit you, not some other site!
2. Tell them the benefits, not the features.
It’s really great that your widgets are forged with 20 gauge copper-reinforced I-beams; but I’m just looking for a stronger widget. Phrase your value propositions with the associated benefit to the end user and the appeal is far stronger.
3. Embody your brand.
Don’t be afraid to use your brand in the tone of your description. If you sell soda, be happy. If you’re a funeral home, be respectful. If you’re a sports humor blog, be campy. Even though you have just a few characters to convey what you want to say, let your brand dictate your word choice. There are no “rules” regarding how to talk to your prospective customers.
This is the first of a nine-part series aimed at helping you spend 10 minutes improving your site every week. If there is a particular part of on-page optimization you want to hear, please email me: jesse [at] slingshotseo.com.