How to Create Effective Page Descriptions - Make sure your description forces a click.
How to Create Effective Page DescriptionsFrom the help files of WebPosition Gold
In past issues I've talked about the importance of your position in the 10 major search engines. I still preach that if you don't appear in at least the first two or three pages of matches, you might as well be invisible. However, some of you worry too much about climbing from position #3 to #1 and overlook another facet of site promotion that is every bit as important.
The actual words that make up your listing in a particular search engine is an advertisement for your business in and of itself. This Web site description must be effective and compelling, not just a demonstration of strategic keyword placement and frequency!
When this particular copy is well written using some specific techniques that we will describe in a moment, it can be even more effective in bringing targeted visitors to your site. Common sense dictates that the effectiveness of an advertisement is contingent on both the ads placement AND how compelling the copy is to the reader. Right?
Most search engines provide a two or three line site description immediately after the "title" of your site. Now remember, some search engines allow you to submit your site description to them and others use a "software spider" to visit your site to take title and site description text right off of your page. The worst mistake you can make is to allow the search engine's spider to index text from your site that is completely irrelevant to your content such as:
[Back to Home Page] [Product Information] [Newsletter] [Contact us]
Welcome to Zebra Enterprises, we hope you'll find us a valuable source of [May 15 97]...
Think about it - when presented with 50 matches from a keyword search, how often would you select that one? Even if a listing like the one above appears in the number one spot the reader will skip it and move down the list. They inevitably choose the one with the most compelling description, regardless of its position.
I rarely pick the first match. I'll at least scan the first 10 entries and pick one that looks the most appealing. Directory services like Yahoo give you the option to provide the site description. Make sure you type & proof-read your description in advance so you don't feel rushed to fill in the field on the submit page.
For most other search engines such as Excite, InfoSeek, and AltaVista which employ "Spiders" to index the content of your page automatically, two techniques are used:
The engine will "Spider" or scan your page for a Description Meta Tag to use for their "summary description." Therefore, ALWAYS include a description Meta Tag on **every** page of your site, NOT just on the home page. If you have different topics of content on different pages within your site, you should create a separate description Meta Tag tailored for each of these pages. As always include, include keywords in this description as you do the rest of the page.
Inserting the description tag is easy. The syntax is as follows:
<META NAME="Description" CONTENT="My compelling description goes here.">
Put this tag between the <HEAD> and </HEAD> tag near the top of the page. If you're using a WYSIWYG editor such as Netscape Gold, you can select "Document Properties" and enter a page description in the field that it provides. These editors will then generate the proper HTML code for you. If you're new to HTML, see the links at the bottom of this newsletter for additional resources.
*** IMPORTANT NOTE: You should not exceed 200 characters in the length
of the description Meta Tag.
Some search engines will ignore the Description Meta Tag and instead extract what it determines is the most "Relevant" content for the page. Most will extract the first few sentences from the top of a page. For this reason, it becomes very important to make sure your leading paragraph is filled with both keywords and text that would be compelling to the reader who is reading it on a search engine as your site's description. Avoid copy at the top of a page that is uninviting when viewed as a search engine's description of your site such as "Welcome to our site" or "The following content was created by Bob Wastespace and Karen Fillerman."
To avoid the problem of irrelevant text in that summary paragraph such as items on your main menu, create a simple "doorway page" that includes a link to your home page, but excludes extra text like menu links. (Doorway pages were explained in the September issue).
Occasionally search engine spiders will extract a chunk of text in the middle of your page that says nothing of interest to the reader and may not even be an appropriate description of your site! This can be maddening. The solution is simple, though - conduct a search for your site in each search engine and check to be sure this description is meaningful and consistent with the content of your Web site.
You could be surprised to find that even for keywords that you rank well under, the site description returned is hardly compelling, and often cryptic. Once you identify the problem, you can redesign the page or create a new doorway page which includes only text you want the engine to display. For instance if you create a doorway page for a particular search engine that has just 2 sentences on it, both compelling, interesting and rich with keywords in strategically prominent positions, the search engine will have nothing else with which to index your site. Don't forget to have a link to the rest of your site though. You wouldn't be the first camper who built a terrific doorway page to achieve a good listing and forgot to have that page link to the rest of your site!
Monitoring your page descriptions for even a handful of keywords on a number of search engines becomes extremely time consuming. This is precisely why we developed a Summary description report in the WebPosition product. WebPosition not only reports your positions, but addresses the second key element to increasing your traffic:
WebPosition shows you your Web site's page descriptions from each search engine, for all your keyword/phrase queries, engine by engine, all on one convenient screen. Whether you choose to check these descriptions manually (and spend quite a few hours doing it), or automatically with a tool like WebPosition, your next step is to improve those summary descriptions. To accomplish this we look to tried and true copy writing techniques.
How To Write A Site Description That Reels In Visitors:
While the following title and description may get you a high ranking for a keyword search on the word "mortgage":
! AAA Mortgage banking, the Mortgage money lenders - Mortgage, lenders, money, mortgages, mortgage money, mortgage loans, home equity loans, mortgage money,
...however, what it says is entirely unappealing. Instead, look at another site description, that would also be ranked high, and see which site you would be more likely to visit:
Mortgages Approved Overnight!! - Mortgages and mortgage financing secrets that large banks don't want you to know. Learn the 10 ways that we can approve your mortgage in 24 hours, even if you have poor credit!
The listing above has the word "mortgage" as the first word of the title, the first word of the description and repeats the word "mortgage" 4 times. The difference is that this description is compelling, solves a problem and offers a "secret" to the reader if they visit the site.
The direct response business has studied and mastered the art of writing headlines. What they learned is that headlines are most effective when they accomplish 3 things:
Solve a problem
Solve that problem quickly
Solve that problem for what appears to be a small or reasonable amount of money.
With that in mind, the following headline is acceptable, but not as effective as it could be:
"I can help you to get out of debt and get a good credit rating - I've done it for others I can do it for you!"
A better approach, and, a headline that usually draws more inquiries reads:
"Fix your bad credit in 48 hours for just $49!"
It solves a problem, does so quickly and shows how much money is involved. People relate to this appeal because it has a fundamental basis. Remember the many adages about goal setting, "A goal without a deadline is a wish!" Or, how about what they teach you in business school about proposal writing, "Never offer a plan that does not include both time and money."
The direct response model is effective because it addresses these things, especially time and money. Think about this when writing your page description Meta Tag, title tag, and first paragraph of the page before you submit them to the search engines. Ask yourself:
Is my headline or first paragraph compelling?
Is it interesting?
Would I read it and want to visit the site?
Does it include time and money?
Does it solve a problem?
Does it suggest that it solves that problem quickly?
Does it show an attractive price?
How does it compare to the descriptions already listed in the top 10?
This direct response model does not apply universally in its purist form. This is because many web sites are not selling things directly or are informational in nature or support what ad execs would call image advertising.
However, do not overlook the fundamental truths:
* Being first in the Search Engines is great.
Your listing in the search engine should be compelling. If the description of the site right below yours is more compelling, you lose - that prospect just passed over your site.
Free Meta Tag Generator ==> CLICK HERE
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