There’ve been quite a few discussions recently about the use of META tags as part of on-page SEO.
Keywords, it seems, are out (at least for Google, and at least for now), but Titles and Descriptions are in.
Just to be clear, this is what I mean by Titles and Descriptions:
Let me say upfront that, despite everything Matt Cutts said in that video, I still create keyword tags on my pages and articles.
Why? Because I don’t know that all search engines have stopped using them.
However, I also don’t spend hours agonizing over which keywords to use and I only use two or three at most.
That’s not to say keywords are irrelevant.
To get the best search engine results for an article you still need to know what question you’re answering when you write it, and to optimize it around a relevant keyword (or search term).
And the best way to find a relevant search term is to use a keyword tool to see what people are typing in to find what you’re writing about.
Then use that term in the Title and Description tags, as well as your H tags and content.
But one tag that’s rarely used to its full potential is the Description tag.
You can type almost any search term into any search engine and in 95% of the results you’ll find that the description beneath the title link is simply an excerpt from the article.
It’s whatever the search engine thinks is appropriate.
And while the description they pick is probably relevant to the search term, it almost certainly does not have any call to action in it.
If you’ve done any PPC advertising you’ll know the importance of relevance and calls to action to achieving a high click through rate.
The same principles apply to natural search results and the way to do it is through the Title and Description tags.
In PPC it’s important to have your keyword (the search term you’re optimizing for) in the title. Same in the natural search results.
In PPC it’s important to get your visitor to click through to your site through the use of benefits and a call to action. Same in the natural search results.
In both PPC and the natural search results I use the AIDA formula as much as I can:
A = Attention
I = Interest
D = Desire
A = Action
So rather than thinking of the Title and Description tags as two separate tags, think of them as two components of a single advertisement for your site or article, and apply the AIDA formula across them both.
Typically your title tag should catch the Attention, and the Description tag should create the Interest, Desire and Action.
The term I’ve optimized this site for is Internet Marketing Tips – the first phrase in the title.
The first part of the description creates some interest (Effective Internet Marketing Tips for your small business), the second part triggers some desire (… products that get results) and the last part encourages them to visit (Hundreds of articles here).
Creating a descriptive, AIDA-based description tag will give you the edge over the site next to yours in the search results that simply uses a search-engine-defined snippet from its page.