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In this course, search engine optimization (SEO) expert Peter Kent walks step-by-step through the process of reviewing the content and markup of an existing web site to improve its ranking in search engine results. This course offers a consultant's take on how to analyze each component—from keywords to content to code—and determine what improvements are necessary to become more visible to search engines like Yahoo!, Bing, and Google.
This course was updated on 10/12/2012.
The description meta tag is the most important meta tag for SEO. It's a simple description of the web page. The tag is used to provide text in search results, the snippet of text underneath the link to the site. So this text is extremely important from a conversion standpoint. It's a call to action, a way to talk directly to the searcher and to encourage the searcher to click on your link. On the other hand, it doesn't seem to carry much weight for ranking. Google has actually stated that they don't use the tag for ranking at all, that it is purely used to provide text in the search results.
At the time of recording this video, testing showed that wasn't entirely true, that in fact Google was indexing the text and using it for ranking to some degree, though probably not giving it much weight. On the other hand, being that Yahoo seems to ignore the text, as far as ranking goes, that doesn't mean you won't want keywords in your description tags; you still do. In fact, if there are no keywords in the tag, it will rarely appear in the search results, because the search engine only display the description tag as the search result snippets if the keywords 'search for' are in the tag.
If they're not then the search engines grab text from the body of the page where they found the keywords. In some cases, you may even see part of the description tag and part of the body text where the search engine has found some of the keywords in one area and some in the other. Also, when the search engines find the search for keywords in the title and snippet, they bold those words, so the search for keywords in the description tag will be bolded, helping to make the search results entries to stand out a little more.
So, how do you create your description tags? Well, they follow some of the same rules as title tags. First, remember that the search engines will truncate the text, so only text that appears with in the first 130 to 155 or so characters will be displayed. After that, you'll see the little ellipsis dots. So any text that needs to be shown to the search, it needs to appear within that area. Try to use enough text to take up two lines in the search results.
Short descriptions can tend to get lost amongst all the other text on the page. You'll want to title-case the text again, because it will make it much easier for people to pick up words as they scan down the search results. You'll also want to throw away words that don't say anything, words that can be removed without removing the meaning of the text. I've also capitalized 'free shipping' to make it stand out. The change in pattern will trip up the eye as it scans down the page, and we're trying to convince people to click the link, so the description tag is all about benefits, the benefits of visiting your site.
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