Q and A: Is it important to have a unique meta description for each web page?

QuestionDear Kalena,

About page description: Do I have to make it all unique for example Description of the site is ’123′ so other pages as Electronics Description is ’123′ or I can make related to category ‘Buy laptop’??

Amr

Hi Amr,

If I am not wrong, I believe that you are referring to the Meta Description Tag which is usually (not always) used by search engines to create a short text preview for each web result displayed for a particular search query.

According to Google, “using identical or similar descriptions on every page of a site isn’t very helpful” and therefore is not recommended. Since no two webpages are ideally the same, each one of them should have a unique description. And since Meta Description Tag is no longer used to rank webpages, there is absolutely not point in stuffing them with keywords.

But it is not just about having unique Meta Description for every webpage; its utility goes far beyond that. Meta Description is like your Ad which is displayed in organic search results. The better your Ad is, the more clicks you are likely to get. It is therefore important that you pay careful attention to each page description you write.

A perfect Page/Meta Description should have the following characteristics:

  1. Describe the page content accurately and concisely while staying within the 160 character limit.
  2. Serve as a perfect Ad copy – informative and enticing.
  3. Incorporate targeted keywords to establish relational relevance between search query and search result, and capitalize on bolding done by search engines.

Writing a killer Ad is not easy and same is the case with Meta Description. Therefore when it comes to writing Meta Description, I usually draw inferences from my best performing Ad Copies. It gives me a good indication of what has and what hasn’t worked for me in the past. You can do the same.

Hope it helps.

Saurav Verma
Kneoteric eSolutions

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Q and A: Will Multiple Description Tags affect my Rankings?

Question

Hi Kalena,

I just noticed that my company’s homepage has five meta description tags within the head tag. Will this have any negative ramifications? Thank you,

Heather

Hi Heather,

The Meta Description Tag in itself is not likely to have a significant effect on your rankings one way or another, but it is still important because more often than not, the snippet displayed in Google search results is taken from the description tag.

Using a description tag therefore gives you some control over the “message” you are providing to searchers about what your page is about.

Having multiple description tags on the same page, will not provide any SEO benefit – only the first one will be considered – the rest will probably be ignored. However, there is a chance that search engines could consider multiple tags as “spammy”.

There is NO good reason to have multiple description tags on your site – at best it is proof of lazy coding, which increases the size of you page and slows down page load times – at worst it could be considered spamming and may result in search penalties.
What about Keyword and Robots?

Using multiple Keyword and Robot Meta Tags are also probably not a good idea. Google will aggregate the content for multiple Robots tags (but don’t advise using more than one). It is not clear how multiple keyword tags are treated – but these days their use is mostly irrelevant anyway.
Duplicate Descriptions?

While we are talking about Description Tags… You should also try not to have “duplicate” description tags – i.e. multiple pages with the same description tag.

The fact that Google webmaster tools goes to the trouble to flag duplicate descriptions as a “warning”, should provide an indication that Google doesn’t think this is a good idea either. Description tags should be unique, and provide a succinct (and keyword rich) description of the content of the page.

Andy Henderson
Ireckon Web Marketing

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Q and A: Is it ok to use the noscript tag to add relevant keywords to a site?

QuestionDear Kalena…

On another site I ran into the use of noscript tag for SEO.

What do you think of the use of this if used to add keywords relevant to the site?

Thanks

Jena

Hi Jena,

For those who aren’t familiar with the noscript tag – despite great advancements in search technology over the years, search bots still have trouble reading content contained within scripted sections of web content (such as JavaScript, Flash etc.). To remedy this, the noscript tag was introduced so that web developers could display relevant content that the search bots and browsers that didn’t support scripting could see.

As you could imagine, it didn’t take long before the tag was exploited and used for keyword stuffing which resulted in penalties.

There are still a lot of positive ways to use this tag that will not result in penalties – such as embedding links if you have a script-based navigation structure and there’s certainly no harm in using it to include relevant content or keywords (as long as it matches the content contained within the scripted version of the page). But if you try and exploit this, you’ll end-up running into troubles.

However, if you’re looking to use this tag to improve the on-site SEO aspects of a website – my advice would be to create a script-free architecture (through the use of CSS) and work on creating content that will be visible to bots and users without the requirement of such tags. This will not only have a better impact on the SEO of your site, but also improve the functionality of your site across a wider variety of browsers and mobile devices (which commonly also have issues displaying scripted content).

Hope this helps

Peter Newsome
SiteMost Search Engine Optimisation

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Q and A: Do keywords in the META keywords tag need to be separated by commas?

QuestionHi Kalena

Happy New Year! Your pesky student has a question. Do keywords in the Meta Keyword header need to be separated by commas or is it ok if they aren’t? I would believe that if they are not, and well structured, it can leverage both long and short tail terms whilst still having the most relevant keyword in place… I hope my question makes sense.

Fabrizzio

Hi Fabrizzio

Some people like to use commas in their META Keywords tag. I don’t. You can either separate the phrases with commas, or just include all your keywords and phrases without commas separating them. Commas are a personal choice and I prefer not to use them in a META Keywords tag because I feel they can act like a stop word to some search engines.

Danny Sullivan wrote a great piece about the META Keywords Tag and the Great Comma Dilemma so you can decide for yourself.

When preparing your Keywords tag, remember that multiple keywords can be integrated into the KW tag as phrases and both the individual keywords and the grouped phrases should be picked up by those few search engines that support the META Keywords tag.

Also keep in mind that Google doesn’t index the META Keywords tag and hasn’t for quite some time.

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Q and A: Why does my website not rank high on search engines?

QuestionDear Kalena…

Does the Google sandbox exist?

Hi, my name is Cameron and I run I Want a Credit Card, an Australian credit card review site. I think I’m doing everything I should be to get good Google traffic. I have loads of unique content and lots of incoming links (some from PR7 and PR8 sites).

I get about 20-30 Google visitors per day, mostly from very specific keywords. I don’t show up anywhere in the first 300 results for credit card’ or ‘credit cards’ on Google Australia, which is frustrating because I think my site is a good resource (certainly more relevant than some of the sites in the first few pages of results).

I’ve read countless articles on optimizing my site for search engine traffic and I’ve tried to follow all the appropriate principles (SEO-friendly URLs etc). My site doesn’t contain any content which may cause it to be penalized (gambling, porn etc) and I have no outbound links to bad or PR0 sites. Google Webmaster tools reports no problems. What am I doing wrong?

Cameron

Dear Cameron

The existence of Google Sandbox, the (ageing) filter put in place by Google spam team to fight web spam, is debatable. While it did exist in the past, many SEO professionals now believe that it no longer exists but Rand Fishkin wrote a post which proves otherwise. I believe that you are trying to hint at the fact that the website’s inability to rank for the keyword ‘credit card’ or ‘credit cards’ is because of Google Sandbox effect. However, a brief analysis of the website did not show any potential signs of the ageing filter playing a role in the website not being able to rank for these keywords.

Since you have been reading around the subject, I am sure that you would have come across various resources detailing search engine ranking factors. The important thing to remember here is that these factors change with time; new factors get added, some lose their sheen while others gain prominence. With this background knowledge, I would like to give you some potential reasons for low ranking and suggest a better approach.

While analyzing your website, I could spot a couple of flaws which will hurt its potential to rank high on search engines. Many of the web pages seem to be using the same (duplicate) ‘title’ which is not healthy. Page title is one of the most important on-page ranking factors and it is imperative that each webpage has a unique title, which is in sync with the keywords being targeted for that particular page. In addition to this, the website’s back link profile looks very unnatural. While building links, it is essential that you rotate anchor texts and use semantic variations of the targeted keywords. It has to be a proper mix and I am afraid to say that it is not at the moment because more than 95% of the links have ‘credit card(s)’ as the anchor text. Also, majority of the links come from a handful of websites. The existing back link profile is bound to raise red flags and many links will be potentially devalued or already are by search engines.

Ranking for competitive terms such as ‘credit card’ or credit cards’ will require concerted efforts for a prolonged period of time. It is pertinent to add that domain authority, trustworthiness and age play a crucial role in ranking for competitive terms; something that cannot be built overnight and will come with time. I would therefore recommend that you adopt a slightly different approach.

You can begin with targeting less competitive keywords like ‘credit card comparison’, ‘compare credit cards’, ‘low interest credit cards’, ‘student credit cards’, ‘low rate credit card’, etc. Keywords which are 3-5 words long are not only easier to rank for as compared to generic term like ‘credit cards’, but also are more likely to convert better. The best part of this whole approach is the fact that as you work towards ranking for less competitive but better converting keywords, you gain significant link equity and domain trust. This in turn will help you rank for more competitive and generic keyword like credit card. By adopting this approach you would accomplish your end goal and in the process achieve high rankings for a wider keyword portfolio.

I hope this helps.

Saurav.

Further reading: Why it Makes Sense to Target Longtail Keywords First

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