Capturing the click through compelling meta descriptions

Granted, the meta description tag won't help your rankings, but that's no reason to ignore it.

The meta description is an important element of your on-page SEO, yet its value is often underrated. Viewing everything in terms of search engine ranking impact blinds us to the opportunity that meta descriptions present search marketers. Admittedly, the meta description tag provides very little value in search ranking. Any value it may have once held in this regard has eroded due to keyword stuffing and other abuses by spammers intent on manipulating the search engines.

So how could this tag be so important if it plays so little a role in ranking? The meta description's real value comes from its affect on the searcher rather than the ranking. High rankings aren't worth much without the commensurate clickthrough. The meta description is often utilized by search engines as a basis for the descriptive snippet of text in the search result, to provide the searcher a summary and brief understanding of what the destination page is all about.

Thinking of it another way, the meta description is your opportunity to attract and compel the searcher to come to your Web site. Repeated keywords or meaningless text are not compelling reasons.

For a real live example, let's take a look at the Lifehacker.com site. This site features all kinds of tips and tricks for getting things done. If you were doing a search in Google and one of the results was from Lifehacker.com, a little compelling snippet would probably go a long way in grabbing your attention and pulling you into their site. But Lifehacker.com doesn't have any meta descriptions to offer Googlebot, so Google (as well as the other search engines) instead pulls some text from the page, which they sometimes get right, but other times, are way off base with snippets featuring taglines, navigation, or even a warning about the need for JavaScript to view photos from the photo gallery like below (pulled from the noscript tag):

Google search result.
"Lifehacker photo gallery thumbnails require Javascript; if you're viewing in an RSS reader, click here to see the Better Gmail Firefox extension photo ?" is probably not a very compelling description to you or to anyone else.

Meta descriptions are too important to leave to chance. Create and tailor a unique, compelling description for each of your site's pages and searchers will thank you with a clickthrough.

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About the author

    Search engine optimization expert Stephan Spencer shares late-breaking SEO tools, tips, trends, resources, news and insights. Stephan is the founder and president of Netconcepts, a web agency specializing in search engine optimized ecommerce. Clients include Discovery Channel, AOL, Home Shopping Network, Verizon SuperPages.com, and REI, to name a few. Stephan is a frequent speaker at Internet conferences around the globe. He is also a Senior Contributor to MarketingProfs.com, a monthly columnist for Practical Ecommerce, and he's been a contributor to DM News, Multichannel Merchant, Catalog Success, Catalog Age, and others. Disclosure.

     

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