May 1, 2015

In Defense of Meta Descriptions

5.1 edited

Meta descriptions are one of those things that people know, but don’t know that they know. Meta descriptions are HTML attributes that provide concise explanations of the contents of web pages, and in the past, they’ve been a source of much confusion and debate in the world of SEO.

“I read that meta descriptions don’t impact SEO, so why are we still wasting time with them?”

This is a question we occasionally get from our clients. Usually, they’ve read an article about Google’s September 2009 announcement that neither meta descriptions nor meta keywords factor into Google’s ranking algorithms for search.

It’s true that meta descriptions are not a direct ranking factor in Google’s search algorithm. However, to say they don’t impact a website’s search performance and ignore them completely would be a mistake. There is still some correlation between having a keyword in your meta description and ranking for that particular search query according to Searchmetrics’ “SEO Rank Correlations And Ranking Factors 2014” Report.

Both users and Google use meta descriptions as a preview of what type of content is on a particular page. Within the SERP, meta descriptions can appear as the summary blurb beneath the link to a web page. The number one ranking factor for search engines is organic search click-through rate, and meta descriptions should be used as a tool to help improve that click-through rate. Best practices include writing compelling copy that informs a user of the content on a page and tries to interest users enough to click through to the website. It’s also good to incorporate important keywords wherever possible because when a search query matches a keyword used in a meta description, it appears bolded within the meta description and keys in users that the web page is relevant to their search query.

It’s also worth noting that some social media sites like Facebook will pull through a page’s meta description when the page is shared on their site, using it much like search engines do, as a preview of the content on that page. Without the meta description, social media sites will just use the first text they can find, which may not always make for the best user experience.

At Delucchi Plus, we write unique meta descriptions for every page within a website. At the very least, we will write meta descriptions for the most important pages (with the best content), and leave the remaining pages blank. It’s okay to not write meta descriptions for a page, but you always want to avoid duplicate meta descriptions.

As with many SEO factors, there are a lot of nuances to how individual elements impact search results. Don’t listen to those who completely ignore meta descriptions! They’re still an important way that both users and search engines interact and gauge websites.