July 9, 2011

A tweak to make your search engine results more effective

What words show up in your company’s listing in Google results?

A search engine will display a descriptive headline, plus 17 to 25 words that explain what searchers can find if they click on the result.

The good news is, you can control what those words are, to make them as attractive and compelling as possible. It’s important to do so, since the first site to be examined has an important leg up on the others competing for attention. Just insert the text you want in your source code header as its Description.

Unfortunately, two things can reduce the effectiveness of a listing. First and worst, a few sites fail to put a description tag in their code, so the search engine robots must guess at what the page is about, extracting copy from the text. You don’t control it.

Far more common, however, is a description that wastes the opportunity. Many description tags run longer than 25 words, with some important brand narrative at the end. This gets cut off by the results page, since there’s a strict limit.

But the most common lost opportunity (probably a majority of sites) is to begin the description tag with the company name. Take a look: the company name appears in the headline, so it’s redundant to mention it again, much less lead with it. Will your search result focus on the needs of the searcher? Begin with the brand promise instead, and make every word count.