Monday, May 14, 2012

How to create a 'search description' for your Blogger post

This post is for people who use Blogger.
  • It introduces you to the new functionality within Blogger which allows you to write an individual summary descriptions for each of their blog posts.  
  • It also explains how this improves the post's listing by search engines - and may well improve the number of visitors - via search - to your blog too
New functionality within Blogger

Blogger has recently introduced new functionality to its software for blogging.  Within the new template there is now a new option to include a meta description for the blog AND each individual blog post.
Meta elements provide information about a given Web page, most often to help search engines categorize them correctly. They are inserted into the HTML document, but are often not directly visible to a user visiting the site.Wikipedia - Meta element
The meta description says what your blog or post is about - but doesn't appear on your blog.  However it does appear in the listing for the post in a search engine index.

Various attempts by some to manipulate search engine rankings have led to some meta tags becoming much less influential than they used to be - keywords being a case in point.

However a meta description is still used by search engines, particularly if it accurately reflects the content of the post (eg text or the alt tags on an image)

Why describe your blog post in summary?

Prior to implementation of the new functionality, the snippets used for my blog posts which had been indexed were usually
  • either the first sentence of the post 
  • or the labels/categories identified for the post.  
I've always suggested that the first 200 characters of a post were the most important - and this is one of the reasons why!

However if YOU create a 'search description' for your blog post, this means YOU - rather than Google or the other search engines - get to define how that post is summarised when indexed by a search engine.   You are not left to the tender mercies or whims of the different search engines!


In other words, if you want people to visit your blog YOU can now define the best way of describing your post in Google.  For all visits generated by a search, this will improve the chances of people  clicking the link in the search results and visiting your blog as a result and finding what they wanted.  It may well improve traffic to your blog as a result.

However the description only works to best effect if it accurately describes the content of the blog post eg repeats words used in the text.

How to describe a blog post

There are two stages to this.

  • The first stage only needs to be done once as it enables the description functionality and sets a description for the blog.  
  • The second stage relates to the description of the blog post and needs to be done for every individual post you want to describe.

Stage 1: Enable the meta description functionality in Blogger

Set the blog's search descriptionHelp users choose to click on your blog in search results by writing a compelling summary of what your blog is all about. Learn more.
Contents of ? button next to "Description"

You should:
  1. view the dashboard of your Blogger blog
  2. Go to "Settings"
  3. Click "search preferences"
  4. Find "Meta Tags".  This should indicate the default option - ie the description is disabled.
  5. Click "edit" button re. "Description"
  6. Click "Yes" button to enable search description functionality
  7. Create a meta description for your blog in l50 characters or less.  (Use Letter Count - set to the character option if you want to check.) This is the description which will appear on your home page - see example below.
  8. Click 'save changes' button
EXAMPLE:  I condensed the strapline beneath the title of Travels with a Sketchbook to create this description which is exactly 150 characters
When I travel, I sketch. When I sketch on my travels I record it here. Plus information about places I visit and links for those who want to know more
Menu of post settings in Blogger
AFTER search description has been enabled
(in Stage 1)

Stage 2: Create a search description in Blogger

In the Blogger Post edit view, you can insert a 'search description' when you create a post or edit it.

To do this, you should:
  1. view your dashboard for your Blogger blog
  2. Go to "posts"
  3. EITHER create a new post OR select a post to edit
  4. View the Post Settings on the right hand side of the edit view.  This includes 'Search description' (as illustrated on the right) - but only if you have acted on Stage 1 above.  Otherwise the setting is missing.
  5. Click on 'Search Description' and a window box appears
  6. Enter a brief and accurate (meta) description of the post in the window.  This will be the text used in a search engine listing.
  7. Try and make sure you use 150 characters of plain text or less (recommended by most reputable sources).  
  8. click done
Here's an example - the summary I've created for this post is shown below in description window

Example of a search description
for an individual Blogger blog post
Once you've done this, your indexed blog post will show up with the correct description.  This is the one for yesterday's post

Meta 'search' description for yesterday's blog post
This is also the description which will show up if you promote your blog post on Facebook.

Extra!  For those who want to know more about site description check out Google's Search Engine Optimisation Starter Guide (pdf).  This is what it has to say about "best practice"

Accurately summarize the page's content
Write a description that would both inform and interest users if they saw your description meta tag as a snippet in a search result.


Avoid:
  • writing a description meta tag that has no relation to the content on the page
  • using generic descriptions like "This is a web page" or "Page about baseball cards"
  • filling the description with only keywords
  • copying and pasting the entire content of the document into the description meta tag
and
Use unique descriptions for each page

Having a different description meta tag for each page helps both users and Google, especially in searches where users may bring up multiple pages on your domain (e.g. searches using the site:operator). If your site has thousands or even millions of pages, hand-crafting description meta tags probably isn't feasible. In this case, you could automatically generate description meta tags based on

Avoid:using a single description meta tag across all of your site's pages or a large group of pages

Do tell me whether or not you decided to try enabling this functionality and how you got on using these instructions.

37 comments:

K. Henderson Art said...

Keep in mind that this only works if you have updated to the new blogger interface. It's not available on the older blogger.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Thanks for highlighting that point.

The thing is Google has reached the point now where it's likely to pull the plug on the old interface any time. We've had the warnings it's about to happen. I've been using the old interface for quite a while and started to switch this last month when the warnings went up a gear.

Nigel Fletcher said...

Very useful thanks Katherine

Sophie said...

Thanks for that, did not know any of it. Am on it.

Jessica Rosemary Shepherd said...

Thanks for this incredibly useful post Katherine.

Gail Brodholt said...

I've been on the new blogger interface for a while and I had no idea at all you could do this - I have now gone through the last fifty or more of my blog posts and added descriptions.
Thanks so much for taking the time to give such clear and easy instructions, Katherine - I shall be interested to see what effect this has on my stats....

livinggod29 said...

I am new to blogger and thanks for the info. It was very informative and easily understandable.
Please also give tips for my blogs :) in order to increase traffic.

Fi - WhereFishSing.com said...

Very very handy post, much thanks.

Theses and Threads said...

Just updated the search descriptions for my posts. Thanks so much! I love that you write in a very readable style that's approachable, too. Not everyone in the tech world chooses to do that. THANK YOU! ;o)

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Thank you! :)

migraine treatment said...

Well, I have been reading your blog posts daily and the reason I come on your blog frequently is its compelling content…

MsPretty LThings said...

I have been using the new interface and had no idea this was there! Thank you very much... I am now wondering what else is on the new interface that I am yet to discover! :)

Essa Khan said...

hi,

I read your article. its a very nice topic you have added recently.
but i have a question!

In post search description what if the post " search Description " is less then 150 characters ? I mean just some main words ?

Thanks.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

That's fine - however you do need to make sure those words are meaningful and related to the content

Essa Khan said...

Great! thanks for that.

Investeem said...

very useful post with clear instructions, thanks a lot!

mind said...

useful topic about search terms

Franklin Awodiya said...

Absolutely helpful post. I don't normally use search description for my posts. 'am editing them today :) Thanks!

Jesse Edgar said...

Thank you for the help!

ThePublicBlogger said...

This was of the most helpful posts I have come across. Thank you.

Bethany Dean said...

This is perfect! Absolutely the most helpful thing I have found today. THANK YOU! Now, if only I can find a way to get Blogger to display those cute little descriptions as summaries on the front page...

Lisa Auch said...

Kathrine I found you via google search! Anyway, am I glad you have answered my question, some of my descriptions are missing and for the life of me I could not work out why! Thanks for putting this info up!

Saikiran P said...

It is very useful. Thanks

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Please note if I can't see who you are and your proposed comment includes a link - and that tells me nothing either than your comment will be marked as spam.

The answer to the question asked is that you can go back and change past blog posts to include a description. I do that for popular ones in the archives which are accessed a lot

Nikhil said...

Very informative article. But then what is the difference betweens 'Tags' and 'Search Description' for a particular post? Aren't both supposed to aid search engines in locating your blog? Yes I understand that the description would also appear in the search results, while the tags won't.

I feel that over time Google has added so many options that it has become confusing to the naive blogger.

My own blog is: witheredpapyrus.blogspot.com

Ben Plumridge-Gray said...

I have no idea how this works, I've just created a photography blog and am a bit stuck!

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Did you not understand the article Ben?

Ben Plumridge-Gray said...

Yeah sorry I read it but I really don't know what to write! Or how to write it! Think it's a great article btw :)

maureen anastasia said...

Thank You for share, it's really usefull

FunnyFaceBeauty said...

Great article. I just added a number of search descriptions to old posts but when I search the posts in google, the search descriptions I've written don't appear. Does it take some time or should I be seeing these right away? Would a description such as 'Diorific Lipstick Swatches and Review, Dior Holiday 2013' be too general with too many keywords? Thanks so much in advance.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

For old posts I'd expect it to take a while to appear - depending on how many queries Google gets.

The description is not too long. Try and stick to 156 characters

This website provides a handy tool for getting snippets right http://www.seomofo.com/snippet-optimizer.html

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Also - make the snippet read well rather than adding in as many keywords as you can think of.

Google is going very much towards natural semantics for search and away from keywords per se

FunnyFaceBeauty said...

Sorry last question. I've added the search descriptions to my most recent posts (one brand new that I wrote today). When I search those topics in google, my blog is one of the first hits, however google only links to my homepage (my most recent post) and not the individual posts related to the topic I've searched. It does this for a number of my posts. Is there a way to change this?

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Your blog is probably too new or not credible enough to rate being ranked for individual blog posts.

Those of us who do get individual posts ranked have earned that credibility over a long period and an awful lot of visitors.

The point of doing the descriptions is that in due course - as and when Google takes your blog seriously then it will start to rank individual posts.

However do remember that keywords are out and semantics are in. The more your description sounds like the way somebody would describe the post as opposed to advertising copy the more likely it is to get picked up.

FunnyFaceBeauty said...

I realized I needed to clear my cache and cookies as others were able to see my individual post ranking and I was not. Problem fixed. I've been blogging for 3 and 1/2 years and have written over 900 posts, so I'm hoping I'm in the category of blogs that Google does take seriously. Thanks.

ravinder sharma said...

this the way that every one can understand and enable them to easily execute your worthy advice. otherwise we can never understand what they want to say. thankyou very much.

Sue Fox said...

Thank you! just what I needed!

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