Dynamic Meta Descriptions for SEO

by rishil on October 21, 2011

I often say that you need to try new things, test new theories, play with the SERPs as often as you can. After all, if you blindly follow what others, and don’t try your own experiments, you won’t be a competitive SEO.  At the same time, read others experiments, learn from them, but try and replicate your own.

For 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 Naylor have been playing with meta descriptions for years.  Greg has even advised up to 5 meta descriptions on a page, if I recall our twitter conversation correctly (see this tweet from Joost) , while Dave has been playing with Snippet optimisation for as long as I can remember.

So what’s the premise?

Simple: Show a different, more relevant meta description for a page for different queries. AKA Dynamic Meta Descriptions!

Why? To improve your click through rates of course!

Does it work?

In a nutshell, I don’t take anything as gospel – I try and test as much as I can. In this instance, I did, and it works!

The below is a search for my Brand: Explicitly Me.

Explicitly Me Meta Description

Explicitly Me Meta Description

See that meta description?

Explicitly Me is an experiment on exposing weakneses in Google, Bing & Yahoo. Visit the site at Explicitly.me to get awesome Blackhat Tips.

Now let’s run a search for my name:  Rishi Lakhani

Rishi Lakhani Meta Description

Rishi Lakhani Meta Description

Rishi Lakhani (rishil) is a specialist SEM consultant, working on Paid, Organic, Affiliate and Social Media. To find out more, feel free to get in …

How cool is that? Its picking this up again from my meta description, and serving the right one for the query.

Here is a Screen shot of my meta description, but if you don’t believe me, check it yourself:

meta description snippet

meta description snippet

Dynamic Meta Descriptions are Cool

Now that I have validated that you can in fact have dynamic meta descriptions, I feel justified in deploying them for a number of sites and clients. Some example situations in which I would deploy these:

1. Brands Home Page – Brands home pages tend to rank for all sorts of stuff, from brand name, to top level generics. How cool would it be to have the home page meta showing a brand message when a brand query is entered, and showing a generic offer led copy when  a generic keyword is searched for? You then please both the Brand Police, and your SEO CTR requirements.

2. Top ranking generic pages – although I need to test this a bit more, I also think you can optimise the copy to show smaller variations in the description tag, for example, when a Car insurance page ranks for  both, Cheap Car Insurance, and Car Insurance Comparison – traditionally you would optimise ONE meta description for that page to include both keywords. But how cool would it be to show TWO separate ones which are query dependant? E.g.:

Car insurance comparison desc

Car insurance comparison desc

Cheap Car Insurance Desc

Cheap Car Insurance Desc

Takeaways:

Read your peers, keep an eye on what they are trying and testing. See their results, then try and replicate as many as possible, as long as the results they get are something you can use.

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Rishi Lakhani is an independent Online Marketing Consultant specialising in SEO, PPC, Affiliate Marketing and Social Media. Explicitly.Me is his Blog. Google Profile

{ 1 trackback }

Most Epic SEO Content of 2011 | Skyrocket SEO
December 13, 2011 at 10:49 am

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Elaine October 21, 2011 at 10:06 am

Since I read that the Description has no value in SEO and aware of the over optimisation penalty, I’ve been experimenting with leaving the description blank – especially on pages with a variety of products – and find that the snippet chosen is quite relevant.
Will try with the Dynamic versions though
cheers.

Reply

Gael October 21, 2011 at 11:05 am

Google also split tested that thing for title tags too. One of my sites with an 80 character title separated with dashes like kw1 – kw2 – kw 3 would only show the keyword typed as the title about 2 month ago, this allowed to have very long title tags and always have your keyword showing in the title of the serp. I guess they removed it to avoid keyword stuffing but since meta desc is not a ranking factor I guess that’s fine :o .

Gael

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mark October 21, 2011 at 1:03 pm

Thank you Rishi! How safe do you think this tactic is for enterprise SEO? Don’t want to loose my job over an extra meta-description ;) In other words have you seen instances where Google frowns on these types of dynamic meta descriptions, i will certainly test it out myself on personal websites just wanted to get your opinion.

thank you!

Reply

rishil October 21, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Personally I dont see this as being dodgy at all. So I dont think that there is anything wrong with it. However thats today, tomorrow who knows with google – they ma call it stuffing, so I would advise you to tread carefully anyway and not overdo it.

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Mark October 22, 2011 at 4:27 am

Thank you!

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Rich October 21, 2011 at 3:49 pm

Great information. Does this mean the character count rule for meta discription is out the window?

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rishil October 21, 2011 at 4:32 pm

No – it still stays an important factor – both those descriptions I used are within the count to show them correctly, and I still messed up the second one.

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charliesaidthat October 22, 2011 at 1:31 am

Love it Rishi. Have also been playing a bit with this.

I have been seeing some very strage things with Google overwriting Page Titles every now and again. Seems to be based on Alt text and anchor text from external sites. Quite interesting really, something you’ve seen much of?

Reply

Doc Sheldon October 22, 2011 at 2:48 am

See, Rishil, this is why I keep coming back! You’re always coming up with something that never would have even occurred to me to try! Keep ‘em comin’!

Reply

Sid October 22, 2011 at 4:20 am

So how do you separate one description from the other – \n (newline character)?

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Maik October 22, 2011 at 12:12 pm

Really interesting. The break between the two sentences in the description makes the difference that a user gets the first or the second description? So that could be a very nice thing to higher the click rate in the serps.

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Kev Strong October 22, 2011 at 7:56 pm

Rishi, any update from a tweet you sent to Matt Cutts re: whether this was frowned upon?

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rishil October 24, 2011 at 7:33 am

Not yet bud. He may be ignoring me…

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Doc Sheldon October 24, 2011 at 3:33 pm

Might be an interesting question to send in for his vids. Of course, he could still ignore it, if it’s a question he just doesn’t want to answer.

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vipul December 15, 2011 at 6:47 am

Awesome stuff Rishil. I have couple of questions –

1. How many such variations have you tried.
2. If the page is long and covering 4 -5 variety of related keywords. Is leaving meta description field empty is better option and allowing Google to choose the best description according to the search query.

Thanks

Reply

emily May 31, 2013 at 6:08 am

Hi Rishi, do you have an update on this at all? I’m a couple of years outdated so I’m wondering if both descriptions are still being picked up for the different search queries?

Reply

rishil June 18, 2013 at 1:47 pm

I believe they stopped allowing these.

Reply

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