Question. Hi Jason, I am a home inspector on Long Island and Im trying to increase my website presence. The Island has plenty of home inspectors. I did a search of home inspectors on LI and found the top 3. Two of the three had a lot of meta description, but the third one I listed below barely has any. My question is, is it possible to be in the top 3 in such a competitive market with such a small Meta description?
Of all the important SEO tags, the META DESCRIPTION tag is probably the most misunderstood. Unlike all the other important tags (e.g., TITLE tag, ALT attribute for images, HEADER tags, A HREF tag)… it has only a cosmetic function. What do I mean?
The META DESCRIPTION tag functions as a SUGGESTION to Google about how to DESCRIBE your web page. It does NOT seem to influence whether you rank, or not, on a Google search. Compare that to the TITLE tag:
The TITLE tag is about 55 visible characters, and STRONGLY influences whether you show on Google. So, if for example, you want to show for the search query ‘Long Island Home Inspectors,’ the most important ON PAGE thing to do is to get that keyword into your TITLE tags, especially your home page TITLE tag. Then, when the query entered by the searcher matches (and other factors of course intervene, such as links and reviews on Google+ Local), then you will rank on Google. Google will also use the TITLE tag for a cosmetic purpose: it will become the HEADLINE on Google (the first 55 characters, that is). So the TITLE tag has two functions: a) a ranking function, and b) a cosmetic function.
Now the META DESCRIPTION does not have function A. It does NOT seem to impact whether you show at all. Many websites, as you have discovered, can lack the META DESCRIPTION tag on their pages, or have badly written ones and still rank just fine on Google. The META DESCRIPTION becomes the description on Google if it contains the keywords entered. It is an important, though cosmetic, tag.
I recommend that you think about the META DESCRIPTION tag as your FREE ad on Google. It’s purpose is to convince the searcher to click. Click on me! Click here, there’s something cool! It’s an ad. Be sure to a) include keywords in the tag, and b) write it with some pithy ZING. The META description character limit is 155.
Now, back to your issue on home inspectors in Long Island. The ones who outrank you will have influenced the major factors in the Google algorithm:
So your TODOS are really to read the list above, and begin optimizing on them in order. If you have time, I suggest you start with my free SEO MOOC (SEO Massive Online Open Course). That will teach you the basics. Also, please download and read the Google SEO Starter Guide, which explains on page SEO.
Got a question? Click this link to email Jason or call 888-993-1122. Dr. Jason McDonald is founder and Senior SEO / Social Media Director of the JM Internet Group. He teaches the SEO training classes for the group, and therefore provides most of the SEO tips for this blog. His goal with this blog is to provide an easy 'one-stop shop' for the busy marketer looking for tips, tricks, and secrets on how to get to the top of Google and Bing for free using proven SEO tactics. When not dreaming up SEO tips, Dr. McDonald lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife, two dogs, a cat, four iguanas and twelve children (just kidding). Really you read down to the bio on this guy? Enjoy the blog.
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