Increasing the popularity of your website now goes well beyond the basic search engine optimization techniques, but as Google's machine learning techniques have improved we've had to think way beyond the number of times a phrase is mentioned on a page, your page title, and whether you use the bold-tag on a page.
If you are new to the Daily Gold Nuggets and want to learn some of the basics of SEO, please refer to our online library from January through about May 2011 where we published many specific SEO strategies.
There are only so many times you can talk about the same common topics of SEO before we bore you to tears, but today we are going to once again revisit the topic of Meta Descriptions and give you an attack strategy for dealing with this tedious task.
What you will need to get this Nugget completed:
1. A website that allows you to write a Meta Description for every page.
2. A website that allows you to insert the Google "google-site-verification" meta tag.
3. Access to your Google Webmaster Tools account.
#1 in the above list is so important. To this day we still find many free or home brew content management systems that simply do not give you control over your own Meta Descriptions! We've seen many very expensive custom web programming houses, and even jewelry industry web design firms, that still do not have the ability to edit Meta Descriptions.
We recently worked with a custom CMS created in PHP. The programmer created the ability to edit the Meta Description, but not for every page. We also couldn't easily edit the descriptions for each category of online jewelry catalog or individual products. Certainly the ability was built-in, but getting to it wasn't intuitive.
Speaking of not being intuitive, the StoresOnline system is a joke! Whatever you do you should NEVER sign up with that company. They are cheap at only $25 per month without a setup fee, and they give you a lot of features. Except their system is not intuitive; making the smallest change requires at least a 30 minute time commitment to navigate their screens and struggle with their controls. If you were an engineer we would say it's perfect, but if you work the average 46+ hours a week in your store, then StoresOnline is not for you.
In order to set up your Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) account, you need to verify ownership of your website. The easiest method is to add Google's verify meta tag shown in #2 above, but some CMS do not have that ability either. Thankfully, Google does have alternative methods to verifying, just read through the GWT setup directions.
On a regular basis you should look in your GWT account at the Diagnostics -> HTML suggestions screen to find pages where Google has detected missing or problematic Meta Descriptions.
Here's the basic strategy in writing your descriptions:
Home Page: Use generic descriptions for your home page. Somehow describe your overall mission in 150 characters or less. Don't just list your favorite keywords; Google will ignore you.
Landing pages: These are usually the doorway pages to deeper areas of your website. One example is your jewelry services overview page. The Meta Description of that page would be the aggregate introduction of individual services below it; again in 150 characters or less.
All other pages: The rest of your website should be comprised of pages for specific topics. Continuing with the jewelry services example, you should have a specific page for each topic of watch repair, for jewelry cleaning, for pearl restringing, etc. Each of those pages should have a 150 character Meta Description that describes the service.
Product detail pages: Individual product detail pages seldom rank in search engines. To make it simple on yourself you should just write Meta Descriptions for each designer or product category and post it to that family of jewelry.
Meta Descriptions are not used for search ranking, rather only to attract user attention and increase your click through rate. If you choose to ignore them Google will automatically create them on the SERP. Auto-creation some times works, but consider this: you have to spend time decorating your windows to attract people into your store. Meta Descriptions are your online window displays. Leaving them to Google's auto-generator is like having a child randomly select items to be thrown into your window.
In tomorrow's Nugget, we'll give you some advice for writing or improving your Meta Descriptions.