SEO Tip: Controlling A Site’s Title and Abstract
There are so many factors that go into getting favorable search engine rankings in the major search engines. But having a top 3 placement is the the end of the battle, you still have to get the searcher to click on your result, and you are competing against 9 other results and the contextual ads on the page. One thing I know from doing Pay Per Click advertising (those are the contextual adds you see at the top and right of most search engine result pages) is you have to have a compelling title and description.
First, what am I talking about? Search results for any search engine have pretty much standardized into at least three required components, Title, Abstract and actual URL. Depending on the keyword and results some of the search engines add extra content, but that is not going to be discussed here. The Title is the first part of a search result that is hyperlinked usually in bold and larger text. This might be the most important factor in
fooling coaxing encouraging a searcher to visit your site, so making sure this stands out and tells the person you have exactly what they are looking for could be the difference between just showing your friends you are on the first page for a keyword and actually making a living on that placement.
The next important item is the abstract or that descriptive paragraph below the title. Again this is really like the sales pitch of a contextual ad. It is where you get to further emphasize you are the place to visit. Finally the actual URL, again a factor used by many searchers to determine the result to visit.
Figure 1 – An example search engine result list
Just like creating high value contextual ads is important to drive targeted traffic to your site the same thing follows through with natural search engine placement, but where does the title and abstract come from, and more importantly how can you control the result content? The answer is potentially several places; your site, the Open Directory Project (DMOZ) are the primary sources for results. Yahoo may actually use the content they use in their directory too.
First if you are fortunate enough to have a listing in the Open Directory Project mega kudos, that is a very important factor in getting good search engine rankings. But it can also be harmful in getting potential visitors to click on your great search engine results. If your site has a listing in the DMOZ project the search engines are very likely to use the content listed in your DMOZ listing. The reason they like to do this is they consider this description to be non-partisan because it was created by a DMOZ editor and not by you. What does this mean? You have NO CONTROL over what is written about your site in DMOZ and often it is very sanitary or maybe not even accurate. Think about it this way, someone that does not know you, or the purpose of your site wrote a short summary based on their quick visit to your site.
Another thing that can hurt is having a general site title and description become listed in natural search results. In Figure 1 I did a quick search for ‘ASP.NET’, which is a very generic keyword phrase, it even has a DMOZ directory. Searching for ‘ASP.NET ListView Tutorials’ produces an entirely different set of results and there is no DMOZ directory for anything concerning a ListView control. So if you have a DMOZ listing and it is used for your great blog entry on working with the ListView control there is a chance Google will use the general ASP.NET title and description you have in DMOZ as your Title and Abstract in the first place natural search engine result for ‘ASP.NET ListView Tutorials’. Yikes! No way I want this. You need to have a Title and Abstract that is a sales pitch to get all the traffic you can, it has to have something about ASP.NET, ListView and Tutorial somewhere in it, repeated if possible, those are just the rules of getting good responses in the search engine battle!
Don’t panic, just be smart. Each of the search engines supports a NOODP META tag. Yes, the same META tags you used to use to tell search engines what keywords to index the site and the Description to use in their results. NOODP stands for No Open Directory Project. Each search engine has to have a dedicated META tag. You can also specify a ROBOTS tag to tell anyone else that might support the NOODP standard to honor your request. Yahoo may also use the results in their directory if you have one of those listings, which also are set by a Yahoo editor. You can tell Yahoo not to use those either with the NOYDIR tag. Putting it all together looks like the following:
<meta name="GOOGLEBOT" content="NOODP" />
<meta name="Slurp" content="NOODP" />
<meta name="msnbot" content="NOODP" />
<meta name="ROBOTS" content="NOYDIR" />
<meta name="Slurp" content="NOYDIR" />
You simply add this to the HEADER element of your page and the search engines will honor your instructions. So where will they look next? Most likely the page they are indexing, which is what you want. You should have a Description META tag with a short 2-4 sentence description of what is on your page. You should also have a TITLE tag that describes the content of your page. And as a Cardinal rule, do not ever under any circumstance start a page title with ‘Welcome to….’ you are more than shooting yourself in the foot by doing so. In my example the title should really be ‘ASP.NET ListView Tutorial on ….’.
Google and NOODP
Live.com and NOODP
Yahoo and NOODP