You may have heard that you need to repeat your keyphrases at least three times each in your meta description for them to affect ranking. I would say that straight duplication of a keyphrase will never be as effective as variation and derivatives. You need to think of the future, not what has worked in the past, this is the Internet after all …
What is even more exciting is that we have all this in our description and we have only used 219 characters. Now comes the hard part, we need to proportion our description to fit in with search engine protocols. Currently, Google only shows 130-160 characters of description with each listing. Yahoo currently displays well up to 350 characters of your description. We need to fit somewhere between the two to be able to have all the relevant keywords that we’ve worked so hard for included in the ranking process. At 219 characters we are pretty safe but we can expand right up to 294 characters.
Search engines cannot simply ‘ban’ a site because it goes over the regularly quoted 250 character limit. (I’m sure you’ve been given the number 250 a hundred times).
This is because the search engines would have to assume that every web site in the world was built according to their guidelines – which is never going to be true. What they can do, is nullify the weight they give to a description meta tag if it seriously exceeds their recommended limit. Yahoo’s limit is well over 300, but some might have higher standards so it is best to keep just under the 300 limit which is why I suggest 294 - as this puts you under any search engine that has chosen 295 or 300 as excessive. For search engines with lower thresholds such as 200 or 250, they will simply ignore the rest of your description meta tag past the 200 or 250 character mark.
If you don’t believe me, ask the search engines themselves if you will be penalised for going over the overly-quoted 250 mark.
Now then, if we can go up to 294 we can add a few more variants for those search engines that allow them. So we add a couple of terms to increase to number of search queries we match and also remove some of the flowery language such as ‘extensive range’ and excessive use of the word ‘and’ which are words that do not help ranking:
Cheap fishing rods for sale. Flyfishing, Saltwater, Freshwater and other fishing tackle in our fishing rods store. Offering the cheapest Sage, Hardy, Browning and Shimano fishing tackle for Salt Water, Freshwater and Fly Fishing. Fish for carp, trout, cod, pike or seabass with quality.
That totals up to a mere 286 characters, well within the limits for Yahoo, Alltheweb, Altavista, Inktomi, MSN and it will not set off alarms at Google or Excite and just look at the keyword coverage we have now:
Notice that the superfluous keywords “Fish for carp, trout, cod, pike or seabass with quality.” Are placed at the end as we do not want our main keyphrases to be ignored by search engines with 200-250 character limits.
What this has become is an attractive, clear, fully search engine friendly and high ranking description meta tag. This means that you have a large list of keywords you can place in your keywords meta tag aswell as complementary optimization on the web page content. Your web page is not ranked on its title, description, headers or alt tags but by a combination of these and other things. Get all of them right and you've got the best chance.
Written by Michael Beverley
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