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I think the best resource is the SE results themselves, run a few searches and see what attracts you. As important is the use of the title to attract the "eye" to your listing, then you can use the description to draw the click.
I've found that using one unique word at the beginning of your description pulls in the clicks. The word should be commonly known, short, but not bled dry by overuse.
Good "flavah words" will vary with the topic of the site, but most of all they should be just a little unexpected. Some examples I've had success in descriptions this year are: "Elegant" "Savvy" "Spunky"
Words that have the less frequently used letters in them (V-K-J-X-Q-Z) are also good at jumping off the monitor.
STUDY THE MASTERS
I find that magazine covers are a great source of inspiration. Those writers must do a very similar job of grabbing attention to what we must do in our titles and descriptions. Next time you're in line at the supermarket...
If the overall shape of the letters resembles an off-color word, that helps too. For instance, depending what font the word "flick" is displayed in, it can be very adult! Words ending in "...uck" all seem to be eye-magnets.
One other tip on all copy -- if you're not familiar with Strunk and White's "Elements of Style", get a copy. If you have it, blow the dust off and give it 3 minutes a day. This book was advising good web copy principles before even the Arpanet was created. It's been my best buddy for 40 years.
Any copy writer who works in a field where results are actually TESTED knows the difference between copy that sells and so-called "creative". I venture to say that over 50% of the dough spent on copy today is wasted on poorly done "image" campaigns and other such nonsense. Art, maybe. Commerce, no way.
Direct mail resources are a treasure trove of information about how to create killer web sites. For instance, the trade magazine "Direct" is a great resource, and free subscriptions are easy to get. I read every issue cover to cover (www.directmag.com [directmag.com]).
Direct marketing already has fifty years of data built up in testing their marketing methods, and all that testing makes direct marketers some of the sharpest commercial users of the internet. About two years ago I worked on the website for the biggest direct advertising house on the East Coast. These guys changed my sense of the web forever.
This gives me an idea for description meta tags that I never thought of trying, but it should work. Direct marketers know that questions are attention grabbers. Why not start a description with a question?
These guys have been in keyword business for a long time and really are inside their market's head.
Thanks for great input, allready on my way to the bookstore :)
One good book, dealing with semiotics, codes, signs and signification is John Fiske "Introduction to communication studies".
Especially if you write descriptions for "sub cultures" or as an european SEO, write descriptions (in english) for differnt local markets.
Cognition of words differs a lot based on the context, ie. in the ongoing presidental election "show" the words "government" "justice" "peoples voice" will have differnt meanings depending on wheter you're a democrat or a republican.
Tedsters question strategy allso works for me, likewise surprices and "turning things upside down" is a good approach: "Corrupt a pure orange juice" (vodka add)
I read this a few weeks ago and have started to use some of the things I've read here - they seem to be working!
(I've only been tracking results for a week, so I don't want to jump to conclusions. I'll update in a month or so)
I've changed a number of titles and descriptions for various keywords at GoTo.
-I've made my descriptions active.
-I'm wrting about benefits
-Using a few 'flavah' words. Thanks, Tedster.
-I've used some different characters, also. Thanks, rcjordan.
Not only do they seem to be working, I'm thoroughly enjoying writing them, as well.
Thanks to everyone who contributed here.
One more thing. I've use this ~ character in a few titles, I think it may be a good one. example-
Disney World ~ Mickey Mouse ~
I've also found, in lieu of dusting off Strunk & White... the AP Style Guide is invaluable for headline/title and short paragraph construction. Newspapers have the same 'gotta sell off the rack' pressure that magazines do... and the AP guide is *the* reference for newspaper conventions.