People find things on the web by searching. SEO helps you get your page in front of people searching for it. SEO is like throwing fishing hooks into a sea full of hungry fish. The more SEO you know, the better you’ll be able to ensure your hook gets seen by lots of fish.
But a fishing hook isn’t enough to catch a fish. Even if you get to page one of search engine results, you still need your “hook” to stand out from all the rest. What kind of bait should you use to attract a click on your link?
Look at this example:
Something jumps out when you compare these search results.
The FIRST example tells the reader exactly what’s on the page. It has energy and pep! It says “FREE STUFF for you,” always a draw. And it includes the keywords right in the title and opening sentence. The only thing it’s missing is a Call to Action.
The SECOND example begins with a friendly but generic “Welcome to my webpage” message. Courtesy is a fine thing, but it’s too generic for bait. Any webpage on any topic could start, “welcome to my webpage.” Skip vagueries. Get right to the point and say, “Come and get X and Y on this page.”
The THIRD example is a little hard to read — evidently there’s a logo there with some image alt text right at the beginning — however, it manages to get hard and compelling fact into a very short snippet: “90 Free Squidoo…” something. Clip art graphics? Who knows. Maybe if they’d sacrifice the alt-text for that image they could fit the free whatsit in before the snippet breaks off.
Stepping back from the example, here’s some general guidelines to help you “bait your hook”.
- Include your keywords in the opening sentence, showing you have exactly what someone is looking for (this also helps with SEO).
- The sentence must be well-written, proving you know what you’re talking about.
- When possible, the sentence should include a Call to Action, or at least build the reader’s enthusiasm and expectation.
- The webpage title — the link — should include both keywords and something that tells the reader, “I’m what you need/want.” “Easy Kite Making” is a good search term. “Easy Kite Making: How to Build a Pyramid Kite” tells the reader they’ll be getting a step-by-step guide. See the difference?
You can’t always predict what excerpt people will see in search results. Sometimes they’ll land on your page searching for a term that’s halfway down it. But you can refine your introduction, the opening of your webpage or lens, to make sure it looks sexy. You can make sure that the first instance of your keywords on your webpage is in a sentence that’s compelling, informative, and phrased to attract clicks.
What is the character length for search engine results?
Maximizing the blurb served up by search engines helps you bait your hook. How much bait can you use?
Google search engine results show about 130 characters for the very first page on a domain that matches a search query, then they will either list just ONE more result for that domain, again with about 130 characters, or TWO results, with only 75 characters each. The example above shows three results.
This example shows just two results:
Yep, there’s an SEO blunder in result #2! I’ve fixed it, but of course, it takes a while to get re-indexed.
The third place to worry about is Squidoo search results. What do people see when your lens shows up in search results, tag pages or featured lenses modules?
That’s about 195-200 characters.
Finally, the Featured Lenses module gives you a generous 250 characters:
Craft the first 128-130 characters of your introduction with extreme care. That’s for Google. It’s best if you can get something catchy and/or keywords within the first 75 characters. Use the next 80-100 characters to engage your reader even more in Squidoo search results.
This takes practice– I’m still working on it myself. Check your search results now and then to see how they look. If you haven’t made maximum use of the blurb Google or Squidoo is giving you, try rewriting for brevity and punch.
“Bait your hook” wisely wherever you’ve bookmarked, plugged or promoted your lens.
Thanks for the info – I’m not sure I will ever be an SEO expert, but it’s always interesting!
Well, I’m not an SEO expert either — more like an SEO graduate student, studying diligently with some expert knowledge but still not a “pro” — however, we can always pick up new tips and use at least some of them to help get our webpages seen!