Why Meta Descriptions Still Matter for SEO

Sheila Hart-O'Connor Wed, 08/09/2017 - 15:15

SEO Tags Optimization*This post was originally published by RSO Consulting and can be found here.

Meta descriptions play an important role in search engine optimization (SEO). The higher the quality of your meta descriptions, the better the experience you can expect to have with SEO – and deliver to search engine users.

But wait, aren’t search engine rankings not influenced by meta descriptions? True, yet there are a few reasons why writing accurate descriptions still matters when it comes to SEO in the big picture sense.

Good Meta Descriptions Improve Clickthrough

The challenge of SEO doesn’t end when you achieve a decent page rank; it continues with getting users to click on your link. One way to improve your clickthrough rate (CTR) is to write a high-quality meta description that includes your keywords and compels the user to continue to the page – increasing your website traffic and, hopefully, leading to higher conversions.

Wired Magazine does a great job of grabbing attention and “lacing” keywords throughout the description for its Nike article:

SEO Results

While meta descriptions do not influence your search engine rankings, the search engines do take your clickthrough rate (CTR) into account, because it indicates if your page is relevant to the user’s search – or not. So if your descriptions are effective, then they can assist you in improving CTRs and, ultimately, your page rank.

In general, search engines do not look favorably on websites that use the same meta description on multiple pages, because it delivers a poor user experience. 

Google May Grab Your Meta Description for Snippets

Another reason your meta description matters for SEO is the opportunity to be featured in a Google snippet.

If you’re unfamiliar with Google snippets, they’re the first pieces of content Google returns for a specific search. They may or may not follow Ads, depending on the search, but they can increase your visibility and direct more traffic to your page.

Here’s an example of a Google snippet:

Google Snippet

Google returns a snippet at the top of its search results page.

Why do meta descriptions matter when it comes to snippets? Because Google can use your meta description as the description in your snippet, to tell users what to expect if they click through to the page. In other words, the quality of your meta description matters because, again, it can determine if a user visits your site.

It’s important to note that your content can appear as a Google snippet even if that same page does not rank highly in search engine results. Google can also pull the description from the content on your page; however, it can refer to your meta description if the content on the page is not helpful or relevant. As of  last month, snippets no longer pull information from DMOZ, so it’s even more important to focus on quality descriptions.

Meta descriptions continue to pull rank when it comes to SEO, because they can ultimately influence your performance on search engine results pages. Write accurate description tags for all your website pages – or risk falling behind when it comes to organic search.