Most web marketers have accepted that getting a website seen and engaged is an ongoing, uphill battle. At some point in the past, simply having a clean and professional website meant you had done enough to appear current and viable in your marketplace. Your shiny new marketing tool boasted your capabilities and every employee was tasked with saluting it for the first few weeks. And because market territory was still fairly spacious, for the most part it got found when someone searched for your products and services.
Then the game changed. Things got crowded and competition stiffened. Recognizing an opportunity, Google developed their AdWords program. In short, companies bid for popular industry keywords to jockey for ad position on a Search Engine Results Page (SERP). These ads earned swanky screen real estate and Google did what they could to make them stand out. However, over time, the demand for keywords grew increasingly high, and small to mid-size companies lost their edge in the fight. They simply couldn’t afford to funnel the same kinds of resources into their campaigns as their larger, richer competitors.
Then something interesting happened: companies that ruled the game began to see diminishing returns. The prevailing SMS theory is that ads became untrustworthy for desired content. The PPC kings had simply oversold their usefulness by buying up keywords and frustrating users who clicked on their ads and wound up down the wrong rabbit holes. As a result, an old habit returned: users began immediately scanning organic results and clicking eye-catching meta descriptions that could only have appeared through closely matching content. Again, this is just a theory as many users still prioritize ads, but even Google seemed to notice and subtly changed their approach. Not wanting to temper lucrative AdWord bidding wars, they continued giving big spenders top rankings but began dressing their ads in organic clothing. Gone were the shaded backgrounds and swank real estate. In their place were more organic looking listings separated by fine lines. In fact, even on a desktop screen you have to look pretty closely to even see the word “ad”.
This means a more level SERP playing field for those companies on tighter budgets. One way to take advantage is through strong meta descriptions that have been given the attention usually reserved for ad copy. For those still catching up, a meta description is the block of text that appears below the search result title. It’s what we read when we’re trying to determine if a result is worth clicking. Sharp developers address the code of these descriptions individually and make them sound enticing, sometimes with irresistible calls to action. If left alone, Google will simply grab up to 160 characters of copy from the page so that users get some idea of what they might find, often at random. This can make for a weak message and gift traffic to competing results.
SMS developers have been polishing meta descriptions for our clients by starting with their most important, high-traffic pages. It allows these companies to “punch up” at the competition with smaller budgets and take advantage of “devolving” search behaviors. We usually recommend a carefully considered combination of PPC and organic SEO practices, one where important keywords and/or long tail keywords are given the portion of the marketing budget required to stay competitive but where site content is equally targeted. This allows well-written PPC ads to be almost duplicated in the meta description code where they’ll be seen and evaluated in the same space as a competitor’s expensive AdWord results.
– S. Norton