While hanging out with some friends last night one of them mentioned the name of a well established local business. I pulled out my iPhone and googled the business name and the city. What showed up as the site description? “Joomla! – the dynamic portal engine and content management system.” Wow. Whoever made their website didn’t bother to change that default description.
I clicked on the link to bring up the site. The site came up and I could see a beautiful border but nothing else. When I got home my suspicions were confirmed, the entire site was done with movies and pretty pictures and no actual text on the front page at all. So what this business has is a very fancy looking website that has no description in Google whatsoever and isn’t viewable from a large percentage of the mobile devices out there. Basically everything that a business could do wrong with it’s website was done wrong. I have no idea how much business they’ve lost as a result, I’m just happy I wasn’t involved with it.
This post isn’t just a rant though, it reminded me of a very simple concept I’ve been wanting to write about: while Google controls where your page will appear in it’s rankings, you have full control over your site’s description in those search results. Let’s take a look at indie author Julia Crane’s website again.
Google show’s her main page description as : “Julia Crane, Young Adult Author. Home Page About Julia Crane Books Blog Contact … Enter the magical world of Julia Crane, the author of the fantasy, …”
That is far, far, FAR better then the generic joomla description that the first site had. This description tells me she’s a young adult author and this is her site. Not too shabby. where did this description come from? From the text on her site. If you don’t tell Google what to say about your site, it grabs the first text off of the page and uses that. While that’s better then leaving it blank, it’s usually not ideal. The first part of her description includes “Home Page About Julia Crane Books blog Contact” beacuse that is what text is there.
Our websites description on Google reads:
“Home of best selling author Lizzy Ford. Lizzy writes young adult paranormal romance and has written such hits as Damian’s Oracle and Katie’s Hellion (The …”
Is that text anywhere on the page? Nope. I use a WordPress plugin called “All in one SEO” that let’s me set the title and description of each page, that way I can override the default “grab the first text” option with something which is hopefully more successful at luring people from Google to our site. Other blogs have similar plugins and if your site is just straight HTML like Julia’s, it’s an easy fix as well. The plugin adds the following code to the head section of my HTML:
<meta name="description" content="Home of best selling author Lizzy Ford. Lizzy writes young adult paranormal romance and has written such hits as Damian's Oracle and Katie's Hellion (The Rhyn Trilogy). This site includes links to free ebook downloads for the Kindle, e-reader, ipad and nook as well as interviews, articles about e publishing and a mailing list you can join for great Lizzy Ford freebies." />
<meta name=”keywords” content=”e-publishing, writers, ebooks, lizzy ford, damian\’s oracle, katie\’s hellion, rhyn trilogy, free ebooks, kindle, nook, ereader, ipad, young adult, paranormal romance amazon” />
The first meta tag “description” obviously set’s my desired description for that page, which Google respects. The second meta tag”keywords” lets me inject a few phrases I think my site is about. Years ago keyword metatags were extremely important. They aren’t important any more but they don’t hurt anything so I still use them.
What’s really cool about working with Julia’s page is that all the hard work was done, and it was done extremely well. She has a beautiful site with a beautiful movie trailer on the front page. The SEO half of the equation really is the easier half, it can just be time consuming.
My first two recommendations SEO wise would be to write your own page descriptions, and to give Google a little more text to work with. Beautiful sites like hers don’t get the credit they deserve in Google’s rankings because Google doesn’t see the pretty pictures and the well done movie, it only see’s text and there’s hardly any of that on the site. Very easy problem to fix, and it doesn’t have to be fixed today. Give it some thought, look around at other sites for inspiration and write out what you would like to say to your fans.