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Good “description” tags are critical to search engine traffic.

By on Mar 12, 2007 in Search Engine Optimization & Marketing

Until you are in the top two results for your keywords, it pays to invest in creating an enticing, compelling description for your site – it may be even more important than other techniques.

I hope that if you’re reading this, you’re familiar with basic search engine optimization, and are aware that getting SEO and SEM results isn’t about introducing some magical technical solutions, but is really about making your site better and easier to find.

I’m an avid reader of many SEO blogs and have worked with a few SEO companies in the past. I once came across their guide on basic search engine optimization, and learnt that step five was “create a description ‘meta’ tag for the site.” I’d like to reiterate that and stress the importance of it. While meta tags don’t play a role in search engine optimization per se (major search engines do not use them in their ranking algorithms), the description tag is seen by people in search results.

Ranking is important for top sites.

A recent study–which I unfortunately don’t have a link to–discovered that although ranking is very important for the first five results, it is dramatically less so for results returned after that. Said differently, people give equal “viewing” time to the descriptions of the first two results and click on the top-ranked result with much more frequency. They are trusting the ranking system. Results three, four and five get equal viewing time, but the rank-based dropoff occurs there as well.

Beyond rank five, however, usage patterns change.

Many users have to scroll to see additional results, and are implicitly “taking control” away from the search engines and are assessing the results for themselves. This is where the description meta tag is vitally important: it’s your pitch to users, and unless you’re ranked one or two, they will probably give it some weight.

Our conclusion: unless you are ranked one or two, spend some extra time crafting an enticing, compelling description for your pages. Search engine users will read and act on them.

Good descriptions are written for human consumption, not search engines.

Please note: Some have a tendency to cram eighty keywords and phrases into their description, in hopes that Google will use that. They won’t, and they’ve said so explicitly. Descriptions are only used for display in Google search results, not determining ranking.

If you don’t have a description defined, or if Google thinks your description is not useful, they will programmatically write their own based on your site’s content.

For more information, see this Google article on writing good descriptions.

Hey! This wasn't written by a congress of ravens! It was written by , who does awesome work at Loud Dog, a digital branding firm in San Francisco that helps businesses express themselves authentically via identities, websites, and marketing collateral.

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