SEO Myth #4: Meta descriptions have a huge impact on search rankings
“It’s true, meta descriptions do not affect the placement your site has in search results. However, meta descriptions are still extremely important for engaging the user to click through to your page. I would recommend trying to use your targeted keyword once, not because it will help with ranking, but because it appears as bold if it matches a person’s search. Try adding a mini call-to-action into your description too.”
– Luke Summerfield, HubSpot
What are meta descriptions?
Meta descriptions (sometimes called “meta description tags” or “meta tags”) is the text in HTML code in a web page header that summarizes the content that is on the web page. The meta description is usually placed after the title tag and appears as a 160 character “preview snippet” under search results.
Do meta descriptions influence search results?
A popular belief among many digital marketers has been that keywords in these meta tags play crucial roles in determining rankings on search engine results (SERPs). It is time to once and for all stomp out this myth from your SEO ecosystem: META DESCRIPTIONS HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO EFFECT ON YOUR SEARCH RANKINGS ON GOOGLE. In 2009, Google announced that meta descriptions (and meta keywords) have no bearing on search rankings (The title of the article, “Google does not use the keywords meta tag in web ranking”, should leave no room for doubt).
In the article, Google clearly states that they have ignored the keywords in meta tags for years and see no reason to change the policy in the future. Yahoo and Bing have not published such bold statements, but they make it clear that if meta tags play any role in search rankings, they hold the least influence out of thousands of other factors.
Do meta descriptions have any value?
At this point, the myth should be officially debunked. It should now be clear to you that keywords in meta tags do NOT influence search rankings, significantly limiting or eliminating their SEO value. However, although meta tags have little to no search value, that does not mean they serve no purpose in the digital marketing landscape. These descriptions actually have significant value in driving click-throughs and conversions. Concise, well-written, enticing, action-oriented meta descriptions containing the right keywords will make your search stand out to the consumer and increase the likelihood that he or she will click on it.
For example, here are 2 search results generated from a search for “Best deals on HDTVs”:
1) Televisions – Overstock.com
Overstock.com HDTVs: Free Shipping on orders over $50! Find the top brands at great prices from Overstock Your Online TV & Video Store! Get 5% in rewards with Club O!
2) TV & Home Theater Deals, Sales & Special Offers …
Walmart has the TCL 50FS3800 50in Smart LED HDTV (1080p) w/ Roku for a ….. eBay (via Best Buy) has the Logitech 915-000201 Harmony Ultimate Remote …
Which one would you click, 1 or 2? Case closed.
Conclusion: Think Conversion, not SEO
Although meta description tags do not influence search ranking results, don’t discount them entirely. They do play a role in influencing consumer behavior. Good ones will drive click-throughs, conversions, and ultimately sales.