You’ve seen it a million times; now you know what it’s called…
There are a lot of things you can do to help move your site towards the top of search engine results and help potential customers find you. When you perform a keyword search, the search engine returns a list of web pages that it thinks match what you are looking for. Each entry in the results is called a snippet of the webpage. The search engine builds the snippet from various pieces of information for each page. This snippet is what customers use to decide if your site is worth clicking on or not. Let us take a look at two snippets for a keyword search of “brooklyn bakery”:
By a quick show of hands, class, who would click on snippet 1 first? And on snippet 2 first? Exactly as I thought, everyone picked snippet 2. While it may not increase your page rank, including descriptive information in your page’s metadata will help the search engines put together a pretty snippet so customers will choose you over your competitors.
Metadata?… Doesn’t the NSA have that?
Well, yes they do, but this is a different story. The metadata I am referring to should be included within the <head> element of each web page and it should describe the content of that page. Let us take a look at the source code to see how the search engine puts together snippet 2;
<!DOCTYPE html> <html> <head> <title> Bodacious Baguettes Breads Bagels and Fine Sweets | Brooklyn Bakery </title> <meta charset="utf-8" /> <meta name="description" content="We are a neighborhood bakery, located in the heart of Brooklyn, that specializes in hand-crafted baked goods, custom cakes, pastries and other sweets." /> </head> ...
As you can see, within our <head> element we have the <title> and <meta> tags. This is where the search engine is getting the information for your web page’s snippet.
The <title> Tag
The title information in the snippet is the same as what appears at the very top of the web browser when you visit the page. If you look at the top of your web browser it should currently say “SEO 101 – The Snippet…” Careful crafting of your page’s title is vitally important because customers use this as a gauge of your click worthiness and search engines use this to determine what your page is all about. For more tips on how to construct a descriptive, SEO friendly title check out SEO 101 – The Title.
The <meta> Description
Next, look at the <meta name=”description”> tag. This should be a brief content summary of the web page. This is what visitors are going to scan and decide if you are worth their time, or not. Including this metadata is not required. If you choose not to include it in a page, the search engine will create its own description for the snippet. In some cases this may be fine, but for the most part you will want to create your own description.
Other <meta> Information
There are many other <meta> attributes you can include along with the description attribute. You can include the name of the author, copyright, keywords and many more; none of which your visitors are really going to notice. The one that some search engines may take into account is the keywords attribute. You use this meta attribute to include relevant keywords that pertain to the content of your web page. If we were to include it in Bob’s Bodacious Brooklyn Bakery web page it would like something like:
<meta name="keywords" content="bakery, brooklyn, bread, bagels, pastries, cakes, best in brooklyn" />
Just a word of caution if you choose to include keywords metadata: you want to be cautious of how you load it up with keywords. Misusing it may be detrimental and your ranking may be penalized if you abuse it. Some search engines use this as one of thousands of factors to rank a web page, others do not use it at all.
Including metadata in each web page is not the end-all be-all of Search Engine Optimization. In fact, it is going to do very little to increase your SEO page rank. Where it will help is to give search engines and customers a better idea of what your web page is all about. Properly crafting your page title and meta description will lead to a greater web presence, higher click rates and greater profitability.
For more info about meta tags check out Google Webmaster Tools.