It might have happened when Google rolled out the penguin update on April 24th. However, I am pretty sure that I noticed the shift in the way that Google deals with meta tags a while before that. Still, Google’s crackdown on over optimization and web spam has caused most SEO’s (myself included) to look at almost every area of our strategy. Along those lines, I recently dug into the way that our site was writing our title and description meta tags. I looked at sites that were ranking above and below us and at the way that those sites were writing their tags and at the way that their search engine results were being displayed. Here are some of the things that I discovered…
- Branding vs. Non Branding: It is no secret that with both Penguin and Panda that Google has been shifting emphasis to large trusted brands. One of the first things that jumped out to me in my research was that sites like Office Depot, Amazon, Staples and Office Max had taken over spots in the SERP’s that previously belonged to either myself or my competitors. That being said I noticed that their title tags were simple, to the point and almost always contained their brand. In the past I had always heard the advice that you should leave the brand out of your title tags since it is so easy for you to rank for your own name. However, with Google’s recent emphasis on brand strength and crackdown on over optimization I have been working on starting to include my brand in our title tags again.
- Shorter and Simpler: Another observation that I made when looking at the title tags of the sites that were ranking the best was that shorter and simpler titles seemed to be outranking longer more keyword stuffed versions. Not to mention that the shorter versions in most cases provided a more clear description of what the page was about than the longer versions that had multiple keywords separated with hyphens, dashes or pipes.
- Singular vs. Plural: In the past I would often try to fit both the singular and the plural version of a keyword into the title of the page. This often involved using dashes, hyphens and some creativity to make both words fit without seeming completely awkward. However, when digging into the SERP’s for most of the my major keywords I discovered that with Google it no longer really mattered whether you had the singular or plural version of the keyword in the title tag. Instead if the page was relevant and the brand was strong the singular or plural version would still rank.
- Meta Keywords (goodbye): Although I have known for a long time that Google or Bing doesn’t use meta keywords as a ranking factor. The Penguin update finally caused me to go and remove all the keyword tags from the pages on my site. Why? With an emphasis on over optimization and keyword stuffing, the possibility that keyword tags can hurt you actually increased. Something this simple isn’t worth taking the risk on.
- Meta Description Length: Looking back at the length of the Meta descriptions that I was writing for our site, I realize that I had really overdone things on some of my pages. In some cases, the meta description was more like a paragraph. One of the things that I noticed was that in these cases Google was just ignoring my Meta description anyway and finding something more relevant from the page to include in the search result. The result was that I decided to write shorter 2-3 sentence max meta descriptions with a stronger call to action.
After noticing all of these things I started on the process of re-writing the title and description tags for all of my category and subcategory pages on my site (a good place to start). Within days I started to see a slight uptick in my search engine traffic from Google. More than likely this was caused by an increase click through rate on the organic search results that I already had. That brings me to my last point. Don’t forget that you aren’t just optimization your title’s and descriptions for rankings, you are also trying to optimize for clicks (which ultimately help your rankings).
Have you noticed changes in the way that Google treats Title and Meta Tags? Have you changed the way that you write after the recent Penguin and Panda updates? I would love to hear what you have seen.
About the Author:
Jeff McRitchie is the VP of Marketing for MyBinding.com and manages their in house marketing and SEO teams. He helped the company launch their ecommerce site in 2003 and has managed all aspects of their online marketing efforts ever since. He regularly contributes to the company blog which is located at http://www.mybindingblog.com
About Shivbhadra Gohil
Very passionate and dedicated about my work. I am one of those fortunate blokes who get to work on the things they love. I love SEO to the core. If you keep really really quiet you can hear my heart beats calling out.. SEO.. SEO.. SEO... Lol..Jokes aside. I would love to learn everything there is to learn about it and am happy to help out anyone who needs my help to get started.
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