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November 27, 2006

Is it awesome in here today or is it just me?

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Around here there are a few things we believe in–Luck Dragons, the Dodgers [if by Dodgers you mean Red Sox, then yes! – Lisa], and the importance of what we like to call practicing perfectly. Sometimes called textbook SEO, the optimization of Meta tags, alt attributes and other on-page elements are often dismissed as unimportant because they’re “ignored by the search engines”. You’ll never get ranked for your Meta Description tag, right?

I’ve always thought that was a short-sighted view to take and I’ve said so on more than one occasion. My opinion, and our best practices, say that you shouldn’t just be picking on a few algo elements and doing those right. You should be doing everything right. That’s what makes for a good and polished campaign. Guess why I’m happy today? [Because you’re still feeling the effects of your turkey-delirium? Do I get more cookies if I guess correctly? – Lisa] Sure! You’re wrong, by the way.

Looking at your site in the search results, it appears that your pages would be well served by meta description tags. For most queries, the generated snippet is based on where the query terms are found on the page, and in those cases, your results are fine. But for some more generic queries, where a logical snippet isn’t found in the text, the generated snippet seems to be coming from the first bits of text from the page — in this case, boilerplate navigation that is the same for every page.

That’s Vanessa Fox in a Google Groups post, advising a site owner hoping to get more of his pages indexed and at the same time, helping me make the case for doing your optimization correctly right from the very beginning. Look at what she’s saying right there–most of the time, Google goes for “logical” page content but for some generic queries, they’re using the first bit of text on your page. If you don’t have a Meta data section, that first text is often your site-wide navigation and suddenly all your pages look duplicate. You know what happened to duplicate pages, don’t you? They get filtered.

Tell me again how you don’t need to worry about your Meta data because the search engines just ignore it and it doesn’t provide you with any benefit? Vanessa, love you for this one. I’m sticking it on my wall so that I can point to it for the next time that someone declares Meta data optimization dead and buried.

By the way, the same problem with duplicate pages can happen if you do have a Description tag but you don’t bother to make it unique to the page that it’s on. Having the same Description tag on every page is duplicate content.

Wait, let me say that again: Having the same Description tag on every page is duplicate content!

You’re not served by doing your search engine optimization efforts halfway. Ever. Yes, it takes more time, no, it’s not an instant fix and it won’t get you from 100 to 1 in a month. But it’s worth the time it takes to do it because you’ll end up with a stronger, more-balanced site for it. If your site isn’t important enough for you to spend the time to make it great, then why should search engines and your visitors think it’s important enough to come back to?

(Hat-tip to Barry, SER)

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