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Pleased with Your Google Description?. . . if not, consider these tips for getting the Google description that YOU want!

Part One of Two

By Robin Nobles Copyright 2004

When it comes to describing your site, Google assembles what is known as a snippet description to display in their search results. Sometimes it's a good description - one that prompts potential visitors to click on your link. Other times, it isn't. Take the case in point where the following page (ranked at #1) in a keyword search for scuba dive "entices" the potential site visitor by listing the various PADI locations from around the world ...

PADI - The way the world learns to dive PADI Americas - English, PADI Canada - English, PADI Europe - English, PADI Nordic - English, PADI International Limited - English, PADI Japan - English, PADI Asia ... Description: The largest and most recognized diving organization around the world with courses ranging from Snorkeling... Category: Recreation > Outdoors > ... > Dive Organizations > Training Agencies www.padi.com/ - 9k - Dec 27, 2003 - Cached - Similar pages

Oops! ...oh, well - at least their Description, taken from their editor-assigned ODP directory description, is relevant - but their snippet leaves something to be desired.

Can the snippet be changed to entice users to click on your listing?

Of course, this is important because potential site visitors are judging whether to click or not based in part on those snippets. So, how can one go about changing Google's snippet advantageously? Let's take a look and see.

For starters, we've found that Google actually pulls the snippet description from several different places on your Web page. Let's think about this for a minute. If we could determine where Google is pulling our description, perhaps we might be able to change that wording to "produce" a description that more accurately describes our page.

Where is Google pulling the snippet description?

Currently Google is pulling the snippet from any one or combination of the following areas:

1. META description tag (although Google doesn't use contents to determine relevancy).
2. First ALT text found on the page.
3. First text found on the page (which may be a heading tag, body text, etc.).
4. Additional heading tags on the page.
5. Additional body text found on the page.
6. Additional ALT text on the page.
7. Navigation bar on the left-hand side of the page (which is rarely a relevant description of a site!).
8. Copyright information at the bottom of the page.
9. Wherever the keyword phrase is found.

Important Note . . .

One thing that's very important to note is that the snippet is determined by the search term. In other words, if you search for your company's name, you'll get a different description than what you would get if you search for a keyword phrase that is relevant for your site. Generally, Google appears to be pulling the description from areas of the page that surround the usage of that particular keyword phrase. The obvious question is, Is it the first usage of the keyword phrase? Usually, but not always.

Another Important Note . . .

Since most people aren't going to be searching for the name of your business, don't try to change your Google snippet description based on a search for your company name. Instead, search for the most important keyword phrase for each important page of your site, and then make changes accordingly.

Let's look at some examples . . .

If you search for "search engine seminars" (no quotes) at Google, you'll find these results:

Search Engine Seminars--your path to success on the Web! ... Search Engine Seminars. Is your Web site achieving the success that you want, or that it deserves? ... At our Search Engine Seminars . . . you learn by doing. ... www.searchengineworkshops.com/articles/search-engine- seminars.html - 8k - Cached - Similar pages

Here's the first text on the page:

Search Engine Seminars

Is your Web site achieving the success that you want, or that it deserves? Are you getting any traffic? Is that traffic converting to sales? Have you considered attending a search engine seminar to learn how to take a struggling Web site and bring it to the top of the rankings?

Search engine seminars, conducted by Search Engine Workshops, are held at various locations across the globe. These seminars are totally different than attending a large search engine conference, where you listen to a speaker discuss theories from the front of the room.

At our Search Engine Seminars . . . you learn by doing

And, here's the head section of that page, which shows the META description tag:

Please note the opening and closing brackets have been removed from the HTML tags to enable the code to display properly.

HEAD
TITLE Search Engine Seminars--your path to success on the Web! /TITLE
META NAME="keywords" CONTENT="search engine seminars, conferences, workshops, CONFERENCES, WORKSHOPS, Conferences, Workshops"
META NAME="description" CONTENT="Have you considered attending a search engine seminar to learn how to take a struggling Web site and bring it to the top of the rankings?"
/HEAD

The META description tag is obviously not being used as the snippet description for this page under the keyword phrase, "search engine seminars." Could it be because the plural version of the keyword phrase, which is what we searched for, isn't found in the META description tag? Possibly.

So where is the snippet being pulled from?

Here's the snippet description again:

Search Engine Seminars. Is your Web site achieving the success that you want, or that it deserves? ... At our Search Engine Seminars . . . you learn by doing. ...

In this example, the snippet appears to be pulled from the first heading tag ("Search Engine Seminars" at the top of the page), followed by the first sentence in the body text, followed by the next heading tag ("At our Search Engine Seminars . . . you learn by doing . . ."). Notice that the second heading tag is not the second instance of the usage of the keyword phrase. In the second paragraph of the body text, the keyword phrase is used as a hyperlink.

So what am I going to do with this knowledge?

In this example, nothing, because the description accurately describes the Web page. I'm not going to change a thing.

If the snippet description of your page accurately describes the page, leave it alone!


Let's look at another example:

In a search at Google for the keyword phrase "search engine marketing training" (no quotes), you'll find these results:

Online Search Engine Marketing Courses ... experts and trainers you can trust do the research for you? Through our search engine marketing training courses, you'll learn: ... www.onlinewebtraining.com/ - 33k - Cached - Similar pages

Search engine marketing resources training optimization software Professional search engine marketing training, Web site optimization education optimization software, and search engine marketing resources. ... Description: Search engine marketing resources. Category: Computers > Internet > Web Design and Development > Promotion www.academywebspecialists.com/ - 8k - Cached - Similar pages

Onsite search engine workshops taught by industry leaders Robin ... ... top ten positions within the major search engines;. ... Earn search engine marketing certification of your skills ... for jobs for professional search engine marketers;. ... www.searchengineworkshops.com/ - 37k - Dec 27, 2003 - Cached - Similar pages

In the first example (onlinewebtraining.com), the snippet description is being pulled from further down in the body text, which is the first instance of the use of the keyword phrase.

In the second example (academywebspecialists.com), the snippet description is being pulled straight from the META description tag, which is the first instance of the keyword phrase on the page.

The third example (searchengineworkshops.com) is the most interesting of all (and the most confusing). Here are the search results again:

Onsite search engine workshops taught by industry leaders Robin ... ... top ten positions within the major search engines;. ... Earn search engine marketing certification of your skills ... for jobs for professional search engine marketers;. ... www.searchengineworkshops.com/ - 37k - Dec 27, 2003 - Cached - Similar pages

On the page itself, the only place that the keyword phrase is being used is in the first ALT text on the page. However, Google isn't pulling the snippet from that area. Instead, it's picking up bits and pieces of the body text and combining it to make the description. This description would obviously be more difficult to change, if we wanted to do so.

Let's try a slightly different approach. Let's search for the name of one of the companies above, and let's see what snippet description is being used then.

In a search for "Search Engine Workshops" (no quotes), here are the search results:

Onsite search engine workshops taught by industry leaders Robin ... Onsite search engine workshops offer personalized SEO training and certification in search engine marketing strategies. ... Search Engine Workshops . . . ... www.searchengineworkshops.com/ - 37k - Dec 27, 2003 - Cached - Similar pages

Look at the differences in the snippet description compared to the other snippet description for the same page! Remember that the snippet description depends largely on the keyword phrase, so your page could have a different snippet description based on whatever keyword phrase you're searching for.

In our example above where we searched for the name of the company, the snippet description was pulled from the META description tag and the first heading tag on the page.

And the moral of the story is . . .

Visit Google and search for your most important keyword phrase for each of your Web pages. What does the description look like? Do you like it? Determine from where on your page Google is pulling the description. You'll probably notice that, in most (but not all) cases, Google pulls the first text surrounding the usage of the keyword phrase, wherever that text may appear on the page.

If you don't like the description, try modifying the area where Google is pulling the description, and see if Google will pick up the changes and use the new description as the snippet in the search results.

Why? ...because your description plays a crucial click factor!

Remember that the description of a page is crucial when it comes to increasing click throughs to your site. If your description is compelling and designed to produce clicks, you may even get more traffic than a competitor who is ranked higher.

To a greater degree than most are aware, you can manage some control over your Google descriptions. This is clearly a case where a little research and some easy tinkering can make a big difference in how your site is presented to potential customers, thereby increasing your click-through traffic coming from Google.

Give it a try!

(Writer's Note: This article offers tips for changing your Google description in order to increase the click throughs to your site. However, this has nothing to do with trying to increase your page's search engine rankings.)

This article will be continued in part two.

Copyright 2004 Robin Nobles. All rights reserved.

About the Author:


Robin Nobles teaches SEO strategies the "stress free" way through hands-on, search engine marketing workshops (http://www.searchengineworkshops.com) and online SEO courses (http://www.onlinewebtraining.com). Visit the World Resource Center, a networking community for search engine marketers. (http://www.sew-wrc.com) Is your Web site gathering dust but not customers? Visit http://www.tnt-guide.com and http://www.wordtracker-magic.com.
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