Is There Any SEO Benefit in Varying Your Company Description Across Listings?

Ben Bowen asked this question on Google+: 

Seen this debated elsewhere: Is there any benefit to varying your company “description” across listings? Or can you just cut and paste your Yelp (or whatever) description?

My answer:

If there is a benefit, it would be quite small. Although there is no exact understanding of how Google uses directory descriptions, it would seem to be a minor or non-issue. I have seen no indication that strong directory entries like Yellow Pages, Superpages or Yelp are not shown in search results due to a duplicate description.

As a proof of the low esteem in which Google holds descriptions, look at how little the Google+ description field is actually used by Google itself. The descriptions entered by the business owner only appear on a page that is hardly seen at all by users. Since reviews have been pushed to the front page and Places search was removed, a user needs to click between two and four times to get to the Google+ “About” page where the description resides and that just isn’t going to happen.

At recent LocalU events, Googler Joel Headley noted that these business descriptions are not used in ranking and should be thought of as a business’s elevator speech. That may have been different in the past, but I think Google now sees owner-written descriptions as pretty much worthless — i.e., prone to spam and not of value to searchers. If they were perceived as valuable, Google would show them in the knowledge panel on a branded or category search.

With the new dashboard you can see Google moving totally away from free-form business inputs in areas like categories, enhanced details and — as mentioned above — by minimizing who sees the description.

On the other hand, I think categories on certain highly trusted third party directories are carefully examined and used by Google to expand their categorical understanding of what a business does. Given the removal of custom categories going forward this will become of increasing importance.

4 Responses to “Is There Any SEO Benefit in Varying Your Company Description Across Listings?”

  1. Maybe there is a benefit from a user perspective and certain platforms may have a leaning towards a certain audience. Likewise, the worthlessness of such descriptions for search purposes really prompts me to simply optimise them for the reader as much as possible.

    Interesting stuff. :)

  2. @Marcus
    Absolutely. If you have a directory site that provides your business with traffic and has a particular slant then optimizing the description for usability and conversions makes all kinds of sense.

  3. It also doesn’t hurt to vary it. ;) We don’t usually worry too much about varying it, but we do ask for different lengths of the description b/c many listings offer different character lengths and we like to use as much as we are aloud to help sell the phone call or click to the website. And like what was said above you could tailor it the site’s personality/community too. Maybe even offer a specific call to action that relates to each site to see if you are getting any calls from each directory (not that I’ve done that… just shooting ideas from the hip).

  4. Hey Mike,

    With the relatively new ability to add hyperlinks in the G+ Local description, do you think this has any implication as far as how much attention Google is now giving to the business description?

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