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WMT - meta descriptions too short
Whitey




msg:3692729
 11:07 pm on Jul 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/3685214.htm GWT flagged some of the meta descriptions as "too short" (in the "Content Analysis" section)

- does it matter and what are the effects ?

 

g1smd




msg:3692755
 11:50 pm on Jul 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

In the olden days of 2005 and 2006, I am guessing that you were heading straight for Supplemental.

In the new world order, I am not sure, but I thought it best to fix them all anyway. It was very easy to do.

The listed URLs also matched those in the site:domain.com search, where Google showed the first 20 words from the page as the snippet, instead of using the meta description for this.

[edited by: g1smd at 11:56 pm (utc) on July 7, 2008]

steveb




msg:3692764
 11:56 pm on Jul 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

It stills leads to supplemental death, though maybe not 100% of the time, but being supplemental is so horrible now that fixing it should be a high priority.

The second thing is if a description is too short you will probably end up with a ransom note tagged onto the end, or used instead... and that should be avoided like the plague. You want your own worded description displayed all the time, so make it long enough to be respected that way.

Whitey




msg:3692932
 5:51 am on Jul 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

GWT flagged some of the meta descriptions as "too short" (in the "Content Analysis" section)

I'm not so sure that this is the finality of it. Google may be using click data in it's algo to measure the relevancy of the title and description in accordance with a "satisfied" user experience :

WMT : About the Content Analysis page

The Content analysis page shows you potential issues Google found when crawling and indexing your site. We recommend that you review this report regularly to identify changes that potentially increase your rankings in Google search results pages while providing a better experience for your readers.

These issues don't prevent your site from being crawled or indexed, but paying attention to them can improve the user experience and even help drive traffic to your site. For example, title and meta description text can appear in search results pages, and useful, descriptive text is more likely to be clicked on by users.

It may assist in ranking Y/N? What's the verdict ?

[edited by: Whitey at 5:53 am (utc) on July 8, 2008]

sem4u




msg:3693098
 10:49 am on Jul 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

Personally, I don't think that making any changes to your meta descriptions will change your rankings on Google. It may increase click throughs in the SERPs though, if Google decides to show them.

g1smd




msg:3693104
 11:13 am on Jul 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

I agree, except that pages that were previously hidden behind clustering filters (and which then re-appear in the SERPs when the description has been de-duped), give the appearance of a ranking increase.

icedowl




msg:3693212
 1:45 pm on Jul 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

I'm wondering if anyone knows where the line is drawn between "too short" and "long enough". Any ideas?

MadeWillis




msg:3693232
 2:03 pm on Jul 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

Personally, I don't think that making any changes to your meta descriptions will change your rankings on Google. It may increase click throughs in the SERPs though, if Google decides to show them.

Do you think that CTR in the organic space has any affect on placement? If so, wouldn't changing your description tag, in a way, change your rankings? It may not be a big factor any more, but I have to think the CTR is in some way used in the algo.

StaceyJ




msg:3693248
 2:19 pm on Jul 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

I'm wondering if anyone knows where the line is drawn between "too short" and "long enough".

Me too. I've always had nicely developed meta descriptions, although I know I'm getting clobbered with dup filters being an ecom site where it's very difficult in this case to have completely different content/meta tags on each and every page.

So I've started shortening the static part of the meta description to help the variable part of the description be more of a factor in the complete description.

But, how short is too short? In a few cases the variable is only two words (but can be several more) and the static part is maybe 5 words. If I leave the static part as it's been (a couple of sentences), then it takes up about 80-90% of the complete description, and we're back to dup content.

g1smd




msg:3693261
 2:32 pm on Jul 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

It isn't just a matter of "shortness". One or two of the descriptions we corrected were lacking anything much like a useable keyword in the description. Adding just one keyword to the existing description was enough in some cases for the "too short" message to go away.

phranque




msg:3693843
 11:23 pm on Jul 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

i'm with g1smd here.
"long enough" to indicate the relevance and uniqueness of the page.

steveb




msg:3693860
 11:41 pm on Jul 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

"I'm wondering if anyone knows where the line is drawn between "too short" and "long enough". Any ideas?"

Do a site: search. If any pages show a ransom note in any way instead of just a description, the description is too short... or just always make them longer than 60 characters.

g1smd




msg:3693861
 11:42 pm on Jul 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

The descriptions flagged as being too short were mainly (all?) between 5 and 10 words long.

There are currently several 8 and 9 and 10 word descriptions that are NOT flagged as too short.

Most of the descriptions are between 12 and 18 words long. There is room for them all to be longer.
Most give a one line snippet. A few are one whole line, plus a couple of words on the second line.

MadeWillis




msg:3694375
 2:10 pm on Jul 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

I'm pretty sure Google shows the first 165 characters. Wouldn't that be a good indicator for the proper length?

Just be sure to include your keywords in there at least once or G will choose another snippet from the content.

[edited by: MadeWillis at 2:12 pm (utc) on July 9, 2008]

pageoneresults




msg:3694469
 3:26 pm on Jul 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

Developing Effective META Description Elements
The importance of this element has never diminished!
2007-08-28 - [webmasterworld.com...]

Inverted Pyramid Writing
What is it and how does it influence a site's relevance?
2006-02-27 - [webmasterworld.com...]

I learned years ago that influencing some control over the snippets that Google displayed was imperative for a successful campaign. You surely don't want a snippet that reads; Home About Us Products Services Etc. No, that would not be conducive to "Click Appeal".

The example I just provided still plagues many today in the SERPs. One peek under the hood and most don't have a meta description. And then the content that comes after the <body> element is so fat that the only thing that makes sense is the first line of code after that <body> element which is usually top navigation.

Its great that WMT provides this type of information to you. Those little quality checks can save you a host of headaches down the line, they really can.

g1smd




msg:3694498
 3:47 pm on Jul 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

If you see Home About Us Products Services etc as your snippet in a site:domain.com search, then Google is already trying to signal to you that the meta description for that page is sub-standard, or missing. Some of those URLs will also turn up in the WMT "Content Analysis" reports, but not all of them will - suggesting that the decisions made for listings in the SERPs are slightly more strict than those used to produce the WMT reports.

Whitey




msg:3694946
 11:19 pm on Jul 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

Personally, I don't think that making any changes to your meta descriptions will change your rankings on Google

I've been reflecting on this. I think "relevance" may make a difference. Therefore, "length" may also play it's part.

The final ordering of the results is decided by our algorithms using the contributions of the greater Internet community, not manually by us. [googleblog.blogspot.com...]

Also this thread here : [webmasterworld.com...]

How can " using the contributions of the greater Internet community" be effected ?

What if the click throughs were substantially below the other sites on the page, caused in part by the meta description. Wouldn't this say something about the site's relevance to Google and their algorithms ?

[edited by: Whitey at 11:38 pm (utc) on July 9, 2008]

tedster




msg:3694953
 11:38 pm on Jul 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

That's the one way in which I also feel meta descriptions might indirectly affect rankings.

poor meta >> fewer clicks >> lower ranking

caveman




msg:3695082
 2:54 am on Jul 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

OK it's been a while since I stirred up a Google thread. ;-) So I preface that all is with great respect.

I don't think that making any changes to your meta descriptions will change your rankings on Google

I agree

Erm, OK, in fairness I can probably go out and find 20 tops SEO's around the Web posting that META Descriptions mainly just affect CT's blah blah blah, but don't affect rankings.

But really...are you kidding me? I've done tests too. Nonsense words. Front of desc. Back of desc. No desc. Dup desc.

Perhaps it's because I work in some competitive cat's where it's a game of inches. But all I can say is, these things matter.

First of all, anyone optimizing large sites knows that the absence of META Descriptions puts pages at a disadvantage. That's a rankings issue folks. And the same people working on sites like this know that if one creates unique page titles AND meta descriptions on a page-level bases site wide (ya, I know, a lot of work), that it helps pages that are more relevant get a better shot to rank over pages less relevant from the same site. So if I have just two shots from a given site to rank for a query, but I've screwed up and not created unique page level descriptions throughout, the two most relevant pages don't get a chance to compete, then I'm left with two less relevant pages, and those in many cases don't rank as well.

Blech.

tedster in a recent thread - [webmasterworld.com...]
I've seen URLs jump back into the regular index even without any increase in link juice, just from giving them a full, unique title and description. In fact, I now even give paginated articles unique descriptions and titles - and I see more relevant traffic coming to deep article pages because of this.

Sums it up nicely from my POV.

Yes, if the site is humming, and everything is perfect, and PR is beautifully distributed, then this becomes rather muted. And of course MC and others are out there saying "don't obsess".

But if I wanted to tank a site in the rankings, other than messing with their page titles, gimme a shot at their META descriptions. Between NO descriptions, dup descriptions, non-relevant descriptions, spammy descriptions ... let's just say I have a feeling the site owner would not be happy with the negative results I could achieve. :P

Make good META Descriptions. Not too short. Long is better than short, but accurate and varied from the title, while still be descriptive of the overall page, is better still.

If the META Description is filling in holes, adding context, conveying the uniqueness of the page in a sharp, catchy way, then you've got CT's covered, and avoid issues that might otherwise exist.

My 2 cents anyway.

[edited by: tedster at 4:57 pm (utc) on July 11, 2008]
[edit reason] fix link [/edit]

StaceyJ




msg:3695555
 4:38 pm on Jul 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

Lots of very useful content in here, but I have another question. I went back and re-read (for the umteenth time) the Developing Effective META Description Elements linked to above.

Regarding Front Loading - I have mostly always used the main keywords from the front of the Title element as the first keywords in the META Description. Is this also a Front Loading tactic, or not? Lately I've gotten concerned that the first 4-5 words of the Title and META Desc. being identical might cause a problem.

I'm re-writing many, many desc. right now to try to sort all the dup issues out on a site, but I want to do it right this time around. So is it better to front load both the title and meta desc., or is it better to take those keywords from the title and stick them somewhere maybe in the middle of the desc.? Also thinking here about the "vary your title and meta desc." thing.

Was thinking maybe this should be a new thread, but not sure?

MadeWillis




msg:3695570
 4:56 pm on Jul 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

IMO, keywords should come early on in the title, in most cases. For the description I would try to make it sound as natural as possible, but still do include the major kewyords throughout. This is your selling point to the reader. Do they click your listing or the next guys?

I think optimizing the descrition tag for the search engines should go hand-in-hand with optimizing it for the visitors. Don't force things if they won't make sense to the end user.

StaceyJ




msg:3695590
 5:31 pm on Jul 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

IMO, keywords should come early on in the title, in most cases.

I agree, and that's what I always try to do.

For the description I would try to make it sound as natural as possible, but still do include the major kewyords throughout. This is your selling point to the reader. Do they click your listing or the next guys?

I agree with that, too. And it drives me crazy when my descriptions are normal sentences written for users and the stuff in the serps above me are just a bunch of keywords strung together. Makes me mad.

I think optimizing the descrition tag for the search engines should go hand-in-hand with optimizing it for the visitors. Don't force things if they won't make sense to the end user.

Agree with that also. thanks.

I did want to clarify for this purpose the keywords are product names. So if I have for the Title "Pretty Blue Round Widget blah blah blah" should I also start the META Desc. with "Pretty Blue Round Widget - sentence 1. sentence 2." or work that in elsewhere in the desc., or does it matter anymore? That "vary the title and description thing keeps sticking in the back of my mind, but does it apply here or only to a title and desc. that are both identical such as both being only "Pretty Blue Round Widget"?

pageoneresults




msg:3695616
 6:16 pm on Jul 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

So if I have for the Title "Pretty Blue Round Widget blah blah blah" should I also start the META Desc. with "Pretty Blue Round Widget - sentence 1. sentence 2."

I'd be careful in this instance to avoid "back to back" duplication. It "looks" a bit unusual at times and may be a signal if other things are present. That type of "back to back" replication may go against how those elements should work in unison and in a sequence.

That "vary the title and description thing keeps sticking in the back of my mind".

I think that is a good thing. Something is telling you that would be the best option. Intution maybe? Gut instinct? ;)

Your <title> is "very succinct". Your meta description takes the <title> and expands on that. Those first two areas in the content area are most likely an <h> and an opening <p> or something similar. The <title> and meta description should be a synopsis of what is taking place at the very beginning of that content (front-loading).

Think of it this way. You have "one chance" to get your message out there. If you had 200-250 characters to work with as a guideline for writing the <title> and meta description, how would you do that to "attract" the most "visual appeal".

Also, keyword positioning in the elements is a factor that is all relative. Certain types of pages may qualify for something that pushes those keywords further towards the end of the <title> but the effect is a positive one in many instances. ;)

StaceyJ




msg:3695772
 9:35 pm on Jul 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

Thanks POR. There's a lot of valuable information in your post to consider, and it agrees with the direction I was heading. :-)

And you are correct, there is an <H> followed by a <P> that follows up on the information provided in the Title and META Description.

So now I'm able to change the title, description <H> and <P> for each category and sub-category page without to much trouble, which shoul dhelp take care of the old dupe content.

And the title has always been easily changed for each Product page along with the <H> if you want them the same. But the description and especially <P> on the product pages are killers, as several similar products can share a common product page template. I guess this is where I have to decide whether to spend loads of time trying to get each page product different enough, or try for one product page from each similar group and let the others fall out due to dupe content...

Seb7




msg:3696186
 10:09 am on Jul 11, 2008 (gmt 0)

I have pages with short meta description which are still appearing in SERP snippets, and often in position 1 for the keywords I've targetted. Though I do feel that I'm probably loosing a fraction of PR because of short description warnings.

baaa




msg:3696198
 10:25 am on Jul 11, 2008 (gmt 0)

although meta descriptions themselves dont directly increase rankings, my experience is that if u get a higher CTR, the google algo takes this into account and then it helps your rankings...

pageoneresults




msg:3696202
 10:37 am on Jul 11, 2008 (gmt 0)

But the description and especially <P> on the product pages are killers, as several similar products can share a common product page template. I guess this is where I have to decide whether to spend loads of time trying to get each page product different enough, or try for one product page from each similar group and let the others fall out due to dupe content.

Don't ever give up hope! What I try to do is take "all of my variables" and lay them out on the page. From there I'll start writing around them. I need to see them flow naturally with what is written. The goal here is to use as many variables as you can. The more variables, the more unique it becomes. I like to use company directory listings as an example. You can use; Company Name, Address, City, State, Zip, Telephone, Latitude/Longitude, Surrounding Cities, etc.

Use those variables to your advantage. You can easily power an almost infinite number of pages from one template page if the architecture of the db and the website support it. I have some meta descriptions that may be assembled from a library of variables depending on the request. They all work in unison with that one template page and/or pages. I'm still working towards a three (03) page dynamic website capable of generating an infinite number of pages. ;)

Not long ago, we set up a neat little CMS for a writer. On the left contained the library of variables that were available for the writer to work with and there are many. On the right, their editing environment (that neat little FCKEditor). The instructions were simple, just click in the right, start writing, styling, when you need a word and/or words to fill in a blank, go to the left, click, drag, and drop where your cursor is positioned, rinse and repeat. Now, click the Preview Button. That is how I like to work with variables. Natural Assembly Language ;)

BillyS




msg:3696270
 1:18 pm on Jul 11, 2008 (gmt 0)

>I'm wondering if anyone knows where the line is drawn between "too short" and "long enough". Any ideas?

GWT updated this value recently for us. Of the 1,400 pages on the site, around 950 are now flagged as too short. That's way up from the prior value of 300 or so.

We've got a glossary or definition section with 300 entries so we never bothered fixing these short tags. Basically, the description was the same as the word in the glossary. I guess we could have expanded the description to someting like:

A definition of the word BLANK.

But part of the keyword tag is "definition" and we felt that repeating words in various meta tags would look like spam.

g1smd




msg:3696282
 1:29 pm on Jul 11, 2008 (gmt 0)

I never use the keywords tag.

Having a lot of meta descriptions that have variance only in one word is not to be recommended.

netmeg




msg:3696340
 2:41 pm on Jul 11, 2008 (gmt 0)

Now that I think of it, I tend to sculpt my title and meta descriptions kind of like they were an AdWords ad - with the pithy summary with keywords on top, and the 'meat' of why they want to click on THIS SERP in the description. Really, it's not all that much different; you're still selling, even if all you're selling is how great/useful/necessary your site is.

This 59 message thread spans 2 pages: 59 ( [1] 2 > >
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