I hadn’t planned on looking into optimizing The Hobby Blogger for search engines for a while. That is until I decided to search “the hobby blogger” on Google, and was a bit miffed on what I saw.
The two black plain text lines below the URL are called the snippet. And The Hobby Blogger’s original snippet wasn’t a very good one. It didn’t accurately describe what this blog is about. Nor did it do a good job of enticing the reader to click through to the site.
However random it might seem, Google’s method of generating the snippet is well known. In my case, Google tried to use text that contained all the keywords of the search phrase that I used: the hobby blogger. See them in bold in search result graphic above?
Influencing your snippet
Using a well-written meta description tag is the best way to influence your page’s Google snippet. Filling out the tag doesn’t guarantee it’ll be used for the snippet, but not including the tag leaves Google with no choice.
If you’re using a premium theme, chances are it has some SEO tools that will enable you to fill out the meta description. For example, the SEO Settings panel for my Genesis WordPress theme has box to enter the Home META Description.
If your theme doesn’t provide a way to edit the meta description tag, then you can install a plugin like All in One SEO Pack. Just be certain that your theme is not also generating the meta description tag. Otherwise you might get duplicate descriptions.
In fact, if your theme is search optimized, it’s better to skip the SEO plugin altogether just to keep the number of plugins down so that your blog doesn’t slow down too much.
Keep your meta description under 157 characters, including spaces. After the first 156 characters, Google chops off the rest and adds an ellipsis to the end of the snippet.
Here’s my homepage’s meta description:
Learn how to build a successful blog by watching The Hobby Blogger develop his own WordPress site step-by-step from scratch in his spare time.
I can probably come up with something better, but for now, it’s better than nothing. At the least, it tells the reader that they will learn something, which I hope will convince novice bloggers to click through to the blog. I also made sure to target WordPress users by including the platform in the description.
How long did it will take for Google to update the snippet? About forty-eight hours. I added the meta description just after midnight on September 27th, and after checking as often as I could, I saw the new snippet just after midnight on the 29th.
Interestingly enough, when searching “the hobby blogger” in Bing and Yahoo!, The Hobby Blogger didn’t even appear in their search results initially (at least in the first seven pages of results). Eventually, it did appear in their search results, with both using my meta description.
After the home page was ready, I’m went back and added a meta description for all of my previous posts, and now do so for all of my new posts before I publish them.
Don’t let a machine create a first impression for your content. Take control and optimize your snippets.
What does your snippet say about your blog?