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Titles and Descriptions - Very Powerful Weapons

Discussion in 'Search Engine Optimization' started by stephenmunday, Jan 25, 2006.

  1. #1
    The power of good page titles and descriptions has been brought home to me today thanks to a little experiment I had not been intending to carry out on Google:

    My site has been half-out of the sandbox for ages. What that meant in practice is that it was showing pretty well in the SERPs (thanks to having a PR6, I guess), but up until yesterday, the searcher was only being shown my URL - no title or description present.

    Then today I noticed that I was getting about 1/3 more people through from Google. Now, get this: My ranking has not changed. What has changed is that now G is showing the title of the page and an excerpt from the description in the SERPs. This alone has brought me 1/3 more visitors from them.
    SEMrush
    The moral of the story? Make your page titles and descriptions keyword-rich, but at the same time compelling to potential visitors, and you will immediately get more visitors without even ranking higher!
     
    stephenmunday, Jan 25, 2006 IP
    GTech likes this.
    SEMrush
  2. Joobz

    Joobz Peon

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    #2
    Descriptions? Like as in meta tags? I thought those days were over?
     
    Joobz, Jan 25, 2006 IP
  3. FeedBucket

    FeedBucket Well-Known Member

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    #3
    Yup... same thing happened to a site I worked on a couple years ago. We changed the title of the page from the whimsical name of the site to something like, "Information about [site topic]" and the increase in traffic was significant -- just because the entry in the SERP was showing visitors something they wanted to see. Playing with titles and descriptions won't necessarily affect your ranking, but it can do a lot to maximize the position you have.
     
    FeedBucket, Jan 25, 2006 IP
  4. stephenmunday

    stephenmunday Peon

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    #4
    In Google SERPs you usually see:

    Title from your Title meta tag
    Excerpt from your description meta tag
    URL

    Unless Google prefers the description in DMOZ.

    What was interesting today is that I have been able to see a very clear cut case of no title no description in the SERPs versus having them. The difference has been about 1/3 increase in Google traffic - and I have noticed that these full listings are not being shown across all datacenters yet, so the real effect could be much more powerful.

    Even if you already have your title and description meta tags being displayed in the SERPs, tweaking them to be attractive to users (like Feedbucket said) could be worth 10% more traffic at least, I would think.
     
    stephenmunday, Jan 25, 2006 IP
  5. aboyd

    aboyd Well-Known Member

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    #5
    Joobz, Google uses the description tag to determine what text to show in its results. But I don't think that means that Google ranks sites higher for it. Those days really are over, IMHO.

    -Tony
     
    aboyd, Jan 25, 2006 IP
  6. stephenmunday

    stephenmunday Peon

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    #6
    Aboyd is right about these tags not being effective in ranking in Google. (Although I have my suspicions that in Yahoo and MSN they still do play a role.)

    It seems that what they are useful for now is in persuading the searcher to click on the link to your site in the SERPs. After all, it is all very well ranking well, but if your title is "My homepage" and your description is "This is a site about me", then won't find many people clicking through when they search for "discount blue widgets".
     
    stephenmunday, Jan 25, 2006 IP
  7. Eclipsis

    Eclipsis Peon

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    #7
    Google do not index the content of the description meta tag (a simple test will confirm it to you: place an unexisting word in your description meta, and try typing this word after a while, you'll see ;)).
    Google reads it and uses it as a description in the SERP, but it doesn't index its content (Yahoo does).
     
    Eclipsis, Jan 27, 2006 IP
  8. minstrel

    minstrel Illustrious Member

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    #8
    Exactly, Stephen.

    Useful traffic from a search engine involves three steps:
    1. ranking high enough in the search results so that people have an opportunity to see your site in the first 3-5 pages of results at least;
    2. having something sufficiently interesting about the title and snippet for your site that a potential visitor will click on your listing instead of all the others; and
    3. having something of sufficient interest on your page to encourage the visitor to linger there long enough to explore other parts of the page and/or site and to either purchase something (if you are a site that sells products or services) or bookmark you and return for subsequent visits.
     
    minstrel, Jan 27, 2006 IP
  9. Hon Daddy Dad

    Hon Daddy Dad Peon

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    #9
    stephenmunday and minstrel make important points.

    Its irrelevant whether or not google uses meta description for rankings - because meta description will still be an important factor as to how many people visit your site.

    Example:

    Lets say you have a number one result for xyz keywords which gets 10000 searchs every month.

    Description 1.

    Title from your Title meta tag
    Sucky Meta Description here that describes your product/service/article poorly
    URL

    Description 2.

    Title from your Title meta tag
    *Awesome Meta Description here that makes the searchers want to click with a compelling description.*
    URL

    Both of these listings get 2000 views. 50% of searchers click on description one because it sucks. 80% of searchers click on description two because it rocks.

    Anyone who has paid to use adwords will know that the copy in your description makes a difference to the conversion factor as to who clicks through - the same thing happens once they get to your site.
     
    Hon Daddy Dad, Jan 27, 2006 IP
  10. stephenmunday

    stephenmunday Peon

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    #10
    Eclipsis:

    The fact that the description snippet in the SERPs for my site is taken from the description meta-tag (text that does not appear in the page itself in the same form) shows that this description tag is important in terms of what is shown to the searcher. My guess is that Google does not grab this data in real time, but uses the copy of my page in its index. Otherwise each time someone searched on that phrase and Google needed to display that snippet of my description tag, Google would have to access my site directly to get it and my server would be completely overloaded!
     
    stephenmunday, Jan 29, 2006 IP
  11. Brad Callen

    Brad Callen Peon

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    #11
    Whilst having the keywords in your title tag's can help you "somewhat" in the search engines, I think alot of people under estimate the power of also creating a compelling title.

    This is like your sign to your store.

    By creating an attention grabbing title and description (which also includes your major keywords that you wish to rank a bit better for), you can dramatically increase your click through from the actual searching phase of the visitor.

    Many times I have seen an increase of up to 25% extra visitors just by altering the description and title that are displayed.
     
    Brad Callen, Jan 29, 2006 IP
  12. stephenmunday

    stephenmunday Peon

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    #12
    Exactly my point, Brad.

    You are right in that you can get the best of both worlds by both using keywords and writing compelling copy both here in the title and description tags, as well as (obviously) on the visible part of the site itself.
     
    stephenmunday, Jan 29, 2006 IP
  13. Brad Callen

    Brad Callen Peon

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    #13
    I think this is where a lot of people struggle when trying to do well with Search Engine Optimization. They become so involved in trying to rank well, that they forget about the end user.

    Which ultimately will lead to a higher traffic flow (presuming they are doing SEO correctly), but poor conversion results with that traffic.

    It's all about finding the right medium.
     
    Brad Callen, Jan 29, 2006 IP
    MKInfo likes this.
  14. stephenmunday

    stephenmunday Peon

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    #14
    I might disagree with you that pure SEO techniques will necessarily lead to higher traffic flow:

    Say you have site A with a keyword-stuffed title and description which looks horrible to the user which is at position 2 and you have a site B with a well-written title and description that appeals to humans in position 4. Which will get higher traffic? I am guessing (speculation only, I suppose) that it will actually be site B, because humans are the final judge as to which they think is more relevant.

    Of course, if site A is at 1 and site B at 100 in the SERPs, then it is game over for site B. But given decent SEO for site B, this should never be an issue.
     
    stephenmunday, Jan 29, 2006 IP
  15. minstrel

    minstrel Illustrious Member

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    #15
    minstrel, Jan 29, 2006 IP
  16. stephenmunday

    stephenmunday Peon

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    #16
    Yes. I agree. Except the reality of competition means that you have to make stuff that both search engines and users like. That is the real balancing act.

    P.S. Is that really you in your avatar, brad? :)
     
    stephenmunday, Jan 29, 2006 IP
  17. minstrel

    minstrel Illustrious Member

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    #17
    Most of the time, I think you can do both without sacrificing one for the otehr.
     
    minstrel, Jan 29, 2006 IP
  18. irka

    irka Well-Known Member

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    #18
    Actually like i always say, the description tag and the title tag is where you place most of your important keywords. It's like your name. My name is patrick and everybody knows me because of my name, some friends knows me because of who i am of course but at first you look at the name, and you get an idea of it :).
    So you ought to put a good description in order to give a great name to your sites. So do with the title.. So do with your keywords density optimization...
     
    irka, Jan 29, 2006 IP
  19. Brad Callen

    Brad Callen Peon

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    #19
    Stephenmunday, yes it is, I am 95 year old and sit here creating products and selling them on the Internet. lol

    No its not really me, but a pretty funny pic :)
     
    Brad Callen, Jan 30, 2006 IP
  20. elkiwi

    elkiwi Active Member

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    #20
    elkiwi, Jan 30, 2006 IP