Meta What? Quick tips to transform web page descriptions into killer marketing statements

Welcome back! Today’s treats include one fun trick, as we pick up our discussion of that hidden world of code, and specifically, how we can transform meta descriptions into powerful marketing statements.  As you (hopefully) concluded from last week’s de-mystifying explanation of code, technical terms needn’t paralyze or intimidate you…they just sound scary!

So what the heck is a meta description? Of the several definitions given for “meta” in the (online) Oxford American Dictionary, the one that most aptly applies to our discussion is “denoting a position of a higher kind.”  Exactly!  The meta description of a webpage is simply the overarching description of what that page is about, written in the language (code) that search engines understand.

Our job is to make that description a powerful marketing statement, as this is our one golden opportunity to incorporate our marketing message in the back-end code!

Recalling last week’s example, near the very top of this site’s home page code, following the Title, we found the page’s meta description:

<meta name=”description” content=”Drive more Web traffic. Boost your search engine rankings. Make more money. Online SEO copywriting training classes for freelance writers, small businesses and marketers.” />  (emphasis added)

As with the page Title, the meta description is also displayed on the search engine results page, immediately under the clickable Title:

SEO copywriting training, content marketing and copywriting

Drive more Web traffic. Boost your search engine rankings. Make more money. Online SEO copywriting training classes for freelance writers, small businesses

How to (Quickly) Make Your Meta Description a Powerful Marketing Statement

You may have guessed that, just as the Title needs to include your most important keyphrase(s) for that page, and (ideally) include a benefit statement and call-to-action, so does our meta description.  That said, here’s three tips for creating a solid meta description, and quickly!

  • Now that you’ve managed to craft a compelling Title using an economical 70 characters, you’ve room to expand with the 175 characters (including spaces) allotted for your meta description.  Wow!
  • Your meta description should be a well-composed marketing statement.  Quick doesn’t mean sloppy — random text stuffed with keyphrases won’t do…well.  If possible, try to include your company/business name and a call to action.
  • Need a fast shortcut?  Go over your page copy and look for a statement rich with a benefit and keyphrase (or two) that you can transform into a killer statement of 175 characters (or less).

The Google Snippet Trick

Sometimes Google isn’t terribly cooperative with rendering your brilliant meta description/marketing statement as you’ve crafted it, and instead may display a vagrant snippet of text from the landing page that happens to contain your search query (keyphrase).  It happens, and unfortunately, there is really nothing you can do about it.  However…

You can influence what appears in that snippet if you understand the Google snippet trick.  Intrigued? Simply place a benefit statement or call-to-action around the first instance of every keyphrase; this will improve the odds that your marketing message will appear in the snippet (as opposed to random text including the query keyphrases). This is by no means an ideal strategy, nor does it always work, but it does give you the means to at least exert some influence on what Google does do with your stuff.  That in itself is no small feat!

A Word About Those Meta Keywords Tags

Because of black-hat SEO abuses of the past, where webmasters simply jammed the tag with irrelevant, non-targeted keywords and keyphrases (e.g. “sex”) simply to drive traffic to the site, the meta keywords tag has lost a lot of its SEO power.  The search engines eventually got wise to this ill practice, and it is no longer possible to achieve high rankings with this keyphrase-stuffing tactic, even for legitimate, targeted keyphrases.

Now, many professionals view the keywords tags as effectively worthless for SEO purposes, and some don’t even bother including them.  But in spite of its shady history and resultant SEO anemia, creating a meta keywords tag is still best practices from a World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) perspective, and it only takes a moment of your time.

In back-end code, the meta keywords tag looks like this:

<meta name=”keywords” content=”wedding cake,custom cake,cake,custom cake order,cake order,unique cake,custom design, specialty cake”/>

So, here are some quick tips for writing a meta keywords tag:

  • Think of the keywords tag like a highlighter and include the main keyphrases that you targeted for the page.  While some people choose to include common misspellings in the tag, there’s no evidence that will help much, if it all.
  • Don’t throw in additional words that don’t appear on the page thinking that it will help you build rankings for those words.  It won’t.  Stick to highlighting the keyphrases and keywords targeted for that specific page.

Thanks for visiting!  Be sure to check in again next Monday, as we are launching into adding new web content, and finding and leveraging new content opportunities!  See you then!

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8 replies
  1. Dave Saunders
    Dave Saunders says:

    Great article–going into Evernote ;-)

    Random thoughts…

    IMO: While the Keywords META tag may be best practice according to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), what influence have they ever had over search engine practice? Based on results, they are inconsequential in that realm.

    The keywords tag also gives away valuable information to your competition. Sure, they can probably figure out what phrases you’re optimizing for but why make it easy? :)

    Reply
    • Heather
      Heather says:

      Hi, Dave!

      Thanks for your comment. :)

      When I’m training writers, I do say that you can easily skip the keywords tag…it’s best practices, but you’re right, it doesn’t really influence SEO. Having said that, I don’t worry too much about the competition seeing my keywords – I figured that there are so many things that go into a campaign (including some kick-butt writing!), that it’s not a big deal.

      I’d love to hear what other people think…

      Reply
  2. Heather Georgoudiou
    Heather Georgoudiou says:

    Great post, thanks for breaking down the mechanics of metadata.

    As for the Keyword tag, I think most SEO copywriters can easily find the KW phrases in the copy, so I don’t worry about the competition either.

    I focus on writing relevant copy for the readers.

    Reply

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