Saturday, February 19, 2011

Meta Description Tags: Are They Important?

As search engines continue to update and improve their algorithms, SEOs must continuously reassess what aspects of optimization remain important. The use of meta description tags, at one point in time, was an essential piece of the puzzle if a website was going to rank high for relevant search queries. And while I would suggest that they remain an important piece of that same puzzle, the impact that a well written meta description may have on rankings is not as significant as it once was.

However, that does not mean that they should not be used and focusing on title tags is the only thing that matters. Webmaster's should dedicate an appropriate amount of time to construct meaningful meta descriptions for their homepage and any inner pages that they are attempting to rank for. Meta tags are an opportunity, particularly for E-Commerce sites that are selling products online. A well written meta description will not only describe in a concise manner the contents of that particular page, but also include a call to action that a user would find appealing.

Consider a website that is selling men's and women's t-shirts online. Not only will that company want to rank high for search queries such as, "men's t-shirts" and "women's t-shirts", but they will also want people to actually click through to their site, increasing their chances of a conversion, in this case an online purchase. The meta description is where companies can separate themselves from their online competitors. Let's compare the following examples of meta descriptions to get a better idea.

Example 1: Company X sells t-shirts, come check them out and get a great deal!

Example 2: Purchase men's and women's short and long sleeve t-shirts at our online store. T-shirts come in small, medium, large and X-large sizes. Choose from a wide variety of colors!

Notice that the meta description in Example 1 is ineffective in a number of ways. For starters, it does not take advantage of the fact that meta descriptions can be up to 150 characters in length. And, the only keywords that appear in the description are "t-shirts" and the company name, which would only be searched by a user who us already familiar with the company.

In Example 2, however, multiple keyword searches are targeted, including "men's t-shirts", "women's t-shirts", and "small/medium/large/X-large t-shirts." Furthermore, this meta description is nearly 150 characters, ultimately providing the user with a more detailed description of the product being offered.

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