Jun 11, 2014
Is it possible to control what a search engine or social media site says about your Web pages? Well, maybe not control in the true sense of the word, but you can certainly give them a shove in the right direction!
The information contained in social media or search engine snippets will usually consist of the page title, a short description and the URL.
Your Page Title
Short snippet of information about the web page usually around 155 characters or so...
There is some good practice for well formatted URLs such as keeping them brief and naming your pages descriptively, but for this article I am concentrating on the title and description parts.
The page title is all important and will be taken from the HTML <title> tag of a page, so it makes sense to format it correctly. Give it some sense, be descriptive by using your keywords and preferably make it less than 70 characters or it will invariably be cut short.
Being descriptive can sometimes take a bit of lateral thinking, so think in terms of “Fred Blogg's Widget Emporium of Utopia” instead of “Home Page” or “Learn All About Fred Bloggs Utopian Dream” rather than “About Us”.
The title tag also has a major influence on your page's search engine ranking, so apart from the obvious keywords, if you want the page to rank for a particular locality then specify that locality in the title.
More often than not, if there is one, the description part of the snippet will come from a page’s meta description tag. This is an often overlooked HTML attribute that is used to describe the content of a web page. Because it is so often omitted, a well crafted meta description can easily help your site to outdo the competition!
Most SEO experts agree that the meta description tag probably won't affect a web page's ranking, but a well formatted description can certainly make a difference in creating that vital first impression and gaining clicks from search engine results pages and social media links.
A well written description translates to a good user experience because it tells the user exactly what to expect. How much information to include in a meta description depends on the content of the actual Web page itself, but I like to think of my meta description tag as a sort of “classified ad” and provide something enticing for potential visitors.
A long meta description will usually be truncated and display only the first 150 - 160 characters, so just like a real classified ad it pays to word your description economically and wisely.
A good page title and description when converted into a snippet found on a search engine results or social media page might look something like:-
Chauffeur Driven Executive Transportation London
Weddings, Airport Transfers, Corporate & Sporting Events, Celebrity & VIP transfers, etc. Professional 1st class luxury without the 1st class price tag...
Notice that just like an advertisement it is selling the service? This is what can make the difference between a click through to your site or that of your competitors. It is vitally important to make sure that your description is relevant to the content that appears on the actual Web page so write it specifically and not just for the site overall.
To add a meta description tag to your web page the following will need to be added to the <head> section of the HTML source code:
<meta name="description" content="Enter your meta description tag here" />
It's probably obvious, but you should change the sentence that states “Enter your meta description tag here” to something suitable for your site.
Reputation is paramount, and part of creating and maintaining a good reputation can be achieved by helping to create a favourable first impression. We can go a long way to achieving this on the web by making sure our website pages are well set up and contain those all-important descriptive elements.
The small investment in time spent setting up your meta descriptions and page titles will pay off handsomely when a site gains extra visitors from the links found on search engine and social media pages. Good luck!
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Tony Williams is the founder of TDL Web Developments and specialises in creating effective and affordable Web solutions for local businesses in Wirral.
Follow on Twitter @tdlwebs