In the second part of my interview with Canon Europe’s Senior Technical SEO, Omi Sido, he talks about meta data on search engine results pages (SERPs), the SEO tools he recommends and why he enjoys working in search marketing so much
Next we moved onto meta descriptions, as November 2017 saw a spike in the average length of meta descriptions showing in search SERPs, with many of them than double Google’s previous limit of 155 characters, and earlier this year Click Consult published a whitepaper to explore how far Google had rolled this out.
While meta descriptions have no direct SEO impact, they can be a powerful factor in someone’s decision about whether or not to click on your result. What would you advise about optimising this text?
“I was talking about this a couple of years ago, before Google increased the description length. I often hear people discussing about ‘the perfect length’ for a meta description – but there has never been a perfect length! Google can always ignore what you write anyway – it will adjust it to suit the query. It all comes down to what machine learning technology like RankBrain understands, and RankBrain doesn’t care about character length. No, it’s nothing to do with SEO.
“I don’t want to scare people, but it all comes down to the machine learning algorithm trying to answer a searcher’s question.
“Google will pull through copy from site that it thinks will most closely answer the query. It’s really a very simple mechanism: if Google thinks that the page copy is relevant to the query, but the meta description (that the site has given it) isn’t, it will decide for itself what to pull through to the SERPs.
“I’m a big fan of page titles and descriptions as they act as free ad space on the SERPs. The right title and description will make people click. I’ve worked big websites where developers messed up and the metas weren’t up to scratch or disappear, and we saw almost a dip in clicks instantaneously. If mistakes were made on a Tuesday, by Wednesday we’d already have less clicks. I’ve seen meta descriptions missing or messed up on websites with more than a million pages.
“Searchers in the real world don’t necessarily act how SEOs expect them to, or think they should, and we should bear this in mind when we’re creating our pages’ meta descriptions.
“If Google is not using the meta descriptions that you’ve provided, you should ask yourself why. For a start, why is it showing my page for this query? Then, why is it showing that copy? Could we have optimised it better?”
There are a lot of SEO tools out there – which would you recommend?
“I’d say it’s best to use a set of tools. There’s no one tool I use every single day. One tool is never enough to do an SEO task.
“For a tech audit, I use OnCrawl, which is a French company. Everyone else use DeepCrawl, which I also dip into. Sometimes, I may see something in one that the other doesn’t show and vice versa. In other words, use all the information that you have available.
“It’s the same with Sistrix versus SEMrush for keyword research – I often see trends in one and not in the other. Every tool has its own specifications. Also, Sistrix and SEMrush are different crawlers – they will crawl your website in a different way.
“And don’t forget Google Search Console – I’m always amazed that people don’t make the most of this free tool from Google itself!
“For SEOs, how you present data is just as important as gathering the data in the first place. It’s not enough just to have data, clients and stakeholders need to be able to understand what the data means. Data visualisation tools are useful to help you to present the data and explain what it means.
“For this, I highly recommend Google Data Studio. It’s free, easy to use and already connected to Search Console and Analytics. Tableau is also good.”
You’re very enthusiastic about your work – what do you enjoy most about SEO?
“I come from a tech background. Before working in SEO, I was a front end developer building websites. It’s always annoyed me when people build websites for the sake of having a website. A website needs an objective. I love data and numbers, but I also love people. I love the whole idea of building a website that people will enjoy. I love connecting human beings and digital concepts.
“Also, I’ve always been interested in robots, the future and virtual reality. Since reading I, Robot when I was six, I always been fascinated by the transition between humans and virtual reality.”
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