SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
Sean Burton

Senior Digital Marketing Consultant. Interested in all things search.

Meta descriptions remain a vital part of on page optimisation, despite the announcement from Google in back in 2009 that they won’t have an impact on the rankings of a web page algorithmically.

So, if meta description’s don’t affect or improve the rankings of your web pages, then why should you spend time on writing them properly, or at all?

Populating the meta descriptions for your web pages provides the best chance of  search engines displaying the snippet of text you require below your listing in the search result – descriptive and well written meta descriptions are more likely to be displayed, and this has been proven to lead to significantly improved click through rates.

hallam meta description

Increased click through rates aren’t the only benefit of having a well written meta description. Meta descriptions are really important for SEO for a variety of reasons:

If you choose to leave a meta description blank, then Google will pull through content from your page to display in your snippet. As this is out of your control, you are not able to choose the messages displayed to potential visitors.

Google can display up to a maximum of 160 characters, and this is a good opportunity to tell prospective visitors what your pages are about, so it is in your best interests to be in control of these characters. When crafting meta descriptions, you may find it useful to use the meta length checker over at www.metalength.com

Meta descriptions display with searched keywords highlighted in bold, so incorporating your targeted keywords into the meta description can help to further highlight your search result to potential visitors.

Although the Meta description itself doesn’t affect the ranking of a given webpage, the side effects of a well crafted one can – well written meta description have been proven to increase click through rate, and in some instances time spent on the webpage, and these metric DO play a part in the algorithmic rankings.

Google’s final word on meta descriptions is “Use quality descriptions. Finally, make sure your descriptions are truly descriptive. Because the meta descriptions aren’t displayed in the pages the user sees, it’s easy to let this content slide. But high-quality descriptions can be displayed in Google’s search results, and can go a long way to improving the quality and quantity of your search traffic.”

Google have written some pretty extensive literature surrounding the implementation and best practice of meta descriptions, along with notifying webmasters of any areas via webmaster tools – would they go to this length if they were not important?

My answer to the question would be no, and my recommendation is to make sure that you pay attention to the meta descriptions of your site’s key landing pages as part of your on page optimisation efforts.

One response to “Are Meta Descriptions still important for SEO?”

  1. Susan Hallam Susan Hallam says:

    Matt Cutts recently commented about Meta Descriptions – and answered the question “is it necessary to have a unique meta description on every page?”

    I was a bit surprised when he said not to worry about every single page on your site, just focus on the important pages. Great news, but the real question is which pages are important?

    What *is* important is to either have a unique description, or no description at all. It is the duplication of meta descriptions that causes the problem.

    Watch Matt Cutts’ great little video here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4gr88oHb-k

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