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Multiple Meta Descriptions

21 Mar 2011, Posted by admin in Whitehat, 57 Comments

Multiple Meta Descriptions


I recently read a post by Adam Audette that was genuinely excellent – it was about maximising your click through rate in organic SERPs, by having very well presented search snippets. I’m always keen on having well written titles and meta descriptions, and I find it surprising that snippets in search results are, for the most part, pretty terrible. Check out SEOptimise’s excellent post on title tags if you’re looking for ways to improve there.

Patrick Altoft had an interesting tip about leaving the brand name out of the title tag – while this may not work for everyone, the idea is that for a generic keyword search (like “red widgets”), Google may display a title that’s optimised for that term. If the search term is branded, however (“Brand name”), then Google will most likely use the Dmoz title.

In a similar way, you can actually have multiple meta descriptions – potentially one for the keyword, and one for the brand name. This isn’t recommended for everyone, and I wouldn’t recommend it for many pages on your site, but it’s possible. The regular limit for meta descriptions to be displayed in full in Google is 156 characters (although I tend to stick to around 154 characters). I recently experimented with having a double length meta description – with the first snippet being designed to be well written for a generic keyword, and the second snippet written for a brand search. The full meta description for my homepage is this:

“Dave is a freelance SEO consultant, specialising in creative link building and in-depth technical site audits. To find out more, feel free to get in touch. Shark SEO is a search marketing blog with free advice on ranking your site better in Google, Bing & Yahoo. Check out the SEO blog today at SharkSEO.com.”

That’s twice the length of a regular meta description. Now check out the snippet for “freelance SEO consultant”:

Freelance SEO Consultant Snippet

And here’s the snippet for the search “Shark SEO blog”, which again returns the homepage:

Shark SEO Blog Snippet

When you put multiple snippets in the same meta description tag, it looks as if Google will use the snippet that’s most suitable for the query.

Flickr image by Amir K.

 

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57 Comments

March 21, 2011 10:00 am

Ahmed

Like it! Will give it a try sometime!

March 21, 2011 11:06 am

rishil

excellent :) Will have to give this a shot.

March 21, 2011 11:14 am

John

Great topic – need to check this out.

March 21, 2011 11:17 am

Yousaf

Excellent experiement! TFS

March 21, 2011 11:21 am

LordManley

I like the way you are using this, but it takes some crafting, is unpredictable and will not easily scale.

So: That’s awesome, I may try it out, but I do not think that I will be recommending it to many clients any time soon.

March 21, 2011 11:40 am

Mediarun

Amazing! good example, I will certainly give this a shot on the hompage as its one of the pages that is served the most.

Furthermore I have just started testing the display of a telephone number on certain meta descriptions.

I used a unique number to see if users will ring the number without clicking through . Im sure some interesting results will come out of it.

Thanks again for sharing!

March 21, 2011 11:43 am

charliesaidthat

That’s awesome!! So going to give this a try. :D

March 21, 2011 11:51 am

Dipesh

Good post, I agree though, this would be unpredicatable at times and could have a negative affect on click throughs as well as positive. Worthy goving a shot though and really good discovery!

March 21, 2011 12:05 pm

Atul @TechOfWeb

Great ..never knew this….Need to check it out

ATUL

March 21, 2011 12:32 pm

Paul

Interesting experiment, will be interesting to find out what sort of percentage this works.

March 21, 2011 12:52 pm

eng. Ilian Iliev

Wow, it`s really amazing. So it looks like Google reads the whole meta description(if it is longer) and chooses which part to show. Interesting does this have an effect for pages where the text in the SERP is not the description but a text from the page content.

March 21, 2011 1:25 pm

Andy

One word: Brilliant.

More than one word: Great little experiment mate… Really awesome results.

March 21, 2011 1:31 pm

Mike Essex

That’s brilliant, now we just need a way to split test Meta description copy like on AdWords and we’ll be sorted.

March 21, 2011 2:03 pm

Building A Findable Website – Findable Designs

[...] experiment by SharkSEO uses two META description tags and letting Google use the most appropriate one for each search [...]

March 21, 2011 2:20 pm

Jeremy

Amazing tip!

Did you test this extensively?

March 21, 2011 2:27 pm

Seo Colombia

What a great tip will be really useful from now on.

March 21, 2011 3:19 pm

Dennis

Very usefull information. I’ll give it a try.
Thanks for that!

March 21, 2011 3:32 pm

Pieter

What a great find. Now we just need to be sure it takes the good combination out of those lines, no? :)

March 21, 2011 3:45 pm

ChrisKukelhan

Have been doing much research on how to write a good meta descriptions for property listings on our site. Going to try this out. Thanks for the sharing the results of this experiment.

March 21, 2011 5:04 pm

Marcelo

Here it did not work, when i search “Shark SEO blog” the snippet appears:
Dave is a freelance SEO consultant, specializing in creative link building and in-depth technical site audits. To Find Out More, feel free to get in touch.

March 21, 2011 7:37 pm

Sean Weigold Ferguson

Just to clarify, this text is nowhere else on your website? In other words, the only place Google could have pulled that snippet is from your meta description?

March 21, 2011 9:24 pm

Admin

Thanks for all the comments everyone.

@LordManley – I agree, it needs to be done quite carefully, my advice is to use it with caution. It’s pretty rare that you’d need to do it on many pages.

@Seanwf – That’s right, the text isn’t anywhere else on my site. At least, it wasn’t until I wrote this post – but it’s certainly not on the homepage (which is the page that’s returned both times).

@Marcelo – Thanks for the heads up, I’m seeing it in the UK, I wonder why it doesn’t work everywhere – out of interest, where are you searching from?

March 22, 2011 11:39 am

SEO Services

Great info thanks, I will definitely give this a try. Any changes I can make to further improve my SEO are well worth trying.

March 22, 2011 4:04 pm

Marcelo

Hi Admin, @sharkseo

I did the search in Brazil
Chrome and Firefox, anonymous browsing.

March 22, 2011 9:03 pm

Randip

Nice post Sharky ;)

I was thinking about something along the same lines recently. Was wondering what would happen if I had multiple meta descriptions designed for different query types. In the end I never got around to testing it (assumed search engines would only count the first one).
If it did work it would eliminate some of the careful construction required for an extended description.

March 23, 2011 3:19 pm

Oscar

That is pretty neat!

BTW & FWIW… like someone else before. if I search for “Shark SEO blog” I get the personal snippet. if I search for it without quotes it displays the brand snippet.

without quotes — https://skitch.com/oscarg/rsgi7/shark-seo-blog-google-search

with quotes — https://skitch.com/oscarg/rsgsb/shark-seo-blog-google-search

freelance SEO consultant search returns the proper snippet quoted or unquoted.

March 25, 2011 11:04 pm

Adam Audette

Really interesting finding! Just saw this, thanks for the mention. Glad to have found your blog, added to my reader. Now to go play some more with snippet text… :)

Cheers

March 30, 2011 5:23 am

Dave Davies

Very interesting. I’ve seen it but oddly – never played with it.

Thanks for pointing out I should probably be doing some testing with this. :)

April 2, 2011 6:39 pm

John S. Britsios

Why not adding the open graph meta description?

April 19, 2011 4:38 pm

Google Test: Multiple Meta Descriptions Work as Expected, Social Search Does Not | SEOptimise

[...] few weeks ago Shark SEO posted an intriguing experiment about multiple meta descriptions. To be more exact, he experimented with adding more than one meta description into a single meta [...]

April 22, 2011 7:36 pm

Uri

Funny thing I was thinking of doing the same experiment, and the resault is what I expected

May 15, 2011 7:30 pm

Optimizare meta description wordpress tag

[...] pagini cu articole, la un tag) Primele 2 titluri de articole din pagina tagului.Am înţeles că este bun pentru SEO să ai un meta description mai mare, mai stufos. Chiar dacă Google spune că e prea lungă, la o verificare pe Webmasters Tools, practic, la [...]

May 19, 2011 9:05 am

Digging Deeper Into Your Analytics | WhatClinic.com

[...] to other curious SEOs like SharkSEO we also know that you can write two completely different meta descriptions for the same page and the search engines will pick the description that best matches the keyword [...]

August 2, 2011 7:45 am

Englischtest Online

Thanks for this interestig nugget. Just found your blog via a post on Webmaster World – much to explore here now.

One question: I understand that it improves click through rate as the Meta Description is more on topic and easier to read, but does this approach also improve ranking?

Thanks in advance for a quick update.

August 17, 2011 10:45 pm

Web Design

This is brilliant! Now it’s just a matter of being clever enough to break the tag perfectly in half…

Definitely worth some testing!

September 21, 2011 12:26 pm

Nine Ways to be a Competitive SEO

[...] On any given day, there are hundreds of theories on what the right strategy is. Some from leading SEO sites, others from Google themselves. Don’t follow blindly – sometimes try the opposite of what is being suggested, just to see what happens.  Google Suggest can’t be manipulated by anything else than search volume, right? Try something that is totally out of sync with what the leadig theories are. You may just find something new. [...]

September 30, 2011 7:46 pm

Burning Bridges SEO

Really interesting tactic. It’s interesting how Google pulled from the description, I just wonder if the length would affect your overall non-branded search traffic. Would be interesting to know how the variance of keywords changed for incoming organic traffic to your site.

October 4, 2011 2:36 pm

CMSBuffet

Very Nice.
This is a really good SEO trick. i love it

October 14, 2011 8:19 pm

SEO Cali

Excellent article. Details that make a difference in our SEO work.

October 21, 2011 10:25 am

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[...] example, Shark SEO posted about Multiple meta descriptions. This is a technique others in SEO, including old school SEO superstars such as Greg Boser and Dave [...]

October 28, 2011 11:38 am

Gordon

Excellent post – I’m going to give it a try. Also a good tip about leaving your brand name out of the meta description as Google will possibly pick up on it anyway.

December 4, 2011 10:11 pm

Mark

I’ve noticed this appearing several times now. More recently though.

Sometimes see the brand name appearing when it hasn’t been mentioned in any meta tags.

December 6, 2011 2:38 pm

Conversion Conference London: The First 58 Takeaways | SEOptimise

[...] from SharkSEO – if you have a long meta description then Google will show the parts that are most relevant to [...]

December 6, 2011 5:20 pm

Conversion Conference London: The First 58 Takeaways | Infinite Backlinks Blog

[...] from SharkSEO – if you have a long meta description then Google will show the parts that are most relevant to [...]

December 9, 2011 1:54 pm

maria

Hi,
I’ve tried this trick, but it doesn’t work with a site that I’m working on.
I mean, in organic searches, it appears just the first meta and the second one, for my second keyword it doesn’t shows… Should I create 2 meta content in my site to make it work? Any suggestions?
Thanks a lot & have fun with SEO ;)

March 17, 2012 3:47 am

top10listguide

Interesting concept…is this still working in early 2012? It seems like every new ‘trick’ is eventually ruined by marketers and then devalued with big G. I can see this being considered spammish….a fine line there.

April 10, 2012 2:23 pm

Katrin

Hi,

how many different descriptions can I use? Does that only work for a generic key and for a brand key? I tried four very similar descriptions and just changed the generic key. But it doesn’t work. Do you think it works better with totally different descriptions?

April 12, 2012 12:05 pm

Alex

Hi Thanks for the great post I have a strange issue though a client of mine has only 1 meta description for their homepage yet when i enter different keywords several different meta descriptions appear in the SERP’s – I recently changed the meta description but i find it very strange that there are 3 different descriptions appearing why could this be? As I said there is only 1 meta description present within the 150 character limit.. many thanks!

May 11, 2012 8:28 pm

Super Saiyan Your Meta Descriptions

[...] first read about these over at sharkseo and decided to give it a try and see if it works, I set up two separate test the first being with [...]

July 23, 2012 3:37 am

Diseño Paginas Web Bogota

Really interesting tactic… Thanks for sharing!

December 18, 2012 4:41 am

Oral Seymour

In response to Alex, in more and more situations Google is making its own decision on what to show for the decisions versus taking information from the meta descriptions tag. I can’t say I blame them, these tags were abused in the past.

April 14, 2013 3:01 am

playentrance

very interesting tips. Sometimes see the brand name appearing when it hasn’t been mentioned in any meta tags.

April 25, 2013 10:38 am

konrad

awesome solution, gonna use on my client’s site right away! do you think it’s feasible to have even longer meta desc i mean targeted for like 3 queries?

December 4, 2013 3:58 pm

Seoarianor

I think right now just have one good striking description, plus a good title and an original and relevant content.

March 29, 2014 7:56 pm

Tom

Great list of tips, thank you for sharing.

April 16, 2014 4:59 pm

White.net | Blog

[...] from SharkSEO – if you have a long meta description then Google will show the parts that are most relevant to [...]

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