META description tags matter in SEO, but probably not in the way that you think they do — especially when you’re used to old-school optimization tricks. It used to be that meta descriptions and meta keywords carried huge and direct algorithmic weight in SERP rankings. As such, they became tools for spamming, used by those who are trying to game the system and trick search engines into ranking them higher. Because of this, Google devalued these tags as ranking signals but continued to use the descriptions as short snippets that tell readers what the page is generally about.
This is exactly why meta descriptions are hugely misunderstood feature. Mastery of its use can be extremely beneficial to your optimization efforts, as meta descriptions provides you your very first opportunity to sell your site (and in turn your business) and tell searchers/potential visitors what is in store for them if they decide to click on your link. The meta description field is a prime piece of advertising real estate in SERPs that you should be taking advantage of.
In HTML, a meta description tag is a 160-character snippet summarizing the content of a web page. Search engines display these snippets along with page titles and headers in search results, providing visitors just enough information on what the page is all about before clicking on them.
When meta descriptions display accurate content overviews, high bounce rates are prevented as people get exactly what they expect based on what they see on the snippet. Through the meta description tag, you get the opportunity to describe page content and help searchers set the right expectations upon clicking on your link. This descriptive snippet is your chance to attract and convince searchers to choose you over other links within the same search results page.
Whether meta descriptions help with search optimization or not is a question in the minds of many search marketers. The quick answer to this is YES, but not directly. Meta descriptions do help a site’s performance by increasing the click through rate (CTR), which is a crucial ranking factor. While Google has long devalued meta descriptions as a direct ranking signal, they still carry some algorithmic weight (albeit indirectly) by helping increase your site’s click-throughs.
Furthermore, when a meta description snippet contains keywords included in the search query, Google (and other search engines) displays these key terms in bold, which reinforces searcher intent and in turn increases CTR significantly. This is also why it is important to ensure thorough keyword research to properly target search terms that your captive audience and potential clients, customers, or subscribers are looking for. In addition to increased traffic, your site will likewise benefit from click data that Google uses in refining their results. Sites that receive a good amount of clicks have a great chance at climbing up SERPs.
Even though meta descriptions don’t have direct effect on rankings, they do have an impact on other aspects of search that feeds into an engine’s ranking algorithm. Needless to say, your meta description tag also needs attention where optimization is concerned. To ensure effective meta descriptions, you must learn how to formulate concise and click-worthy descriptions of page content—those that will help convince potential readers that your page offers the best information or data on a particular topic. Meta descriptions must likewise be kept short and sweet yet informative, as search engines only display up to 160 characters or approximately 20 words in site snippets. Finally, each page deserves a unique meta description, so take time to create individual tags for each of your pages and avoid cutting corners by using the same description for all of your content pages.
Need help optimizing your meta description tags? Contact SEOValley today. Our SEO specialists will be happy to assist you.