How Meta Descriptions Affect Google Rankings
Meta descriptions are crucial for SEO content writing as they appear on social media and Google’s search results, urging users to visit websites. They also help Google’s search engine determine the context of a web page’s SEO content.
During an audit using SEO tools, one might discover a warning or flag about missing or duplicate meta descriptions. This might suggest that one needs to make sure each page has its own unique meta description as part of their SEO strategy. But some SEOs wonder whether or not Google uses meta descriptions as a ranking factor.
SEOs Claim that Meta Descriptions Are a Ranking Factor
Some SEOs claim that writing an optimised meta description will improve a site’s Google search ranking. And since meta descriptions have fairly limited space, SEOs believe they should utilise their target keyword phrase in the meta description.
The usual advice from SEOs right now is that meta descriptions should be 155 characters, more or less, and include a focus keyword. The description should also match the SEO content.
Meta descriptions are undoubtedly important in SEO, but the question remains: Does Google use them to determine a website’s rankings?
The Proof that Meta Descriptions Are a Ranking Factor
In August 2020, a video was posted on the Google Search Central channel where Google’s Martin Splitt emphasised that meta descriptions should be included on mobile pages because they are important for Googlebot.
After his statement, an SEO expert posted on Twitter, asking for more details. Splitt responded, saying that page titles and meta descriptions give visitors a first impression and aid Google Search in summarising the essential information about the page.
This caught a lot of attention because, at the time, the widely held belief among SEO experts was that meta descriptions no longer have any ranking value.
In 2011, SEOs thought that search engines do not consider meta descriptions when ranking websites anymore. However, many still believed that this portion of the page is still critical for gaining visitors.
The Proof Against Meta Descriptions as a Ranking Factor
Google’s John Mueller clarified that Google does not use meta descriptions as a ranking factor. He said that descriptions are usually used as search snippets. If an SEO does not put meta descriptions on their mobile pages, even with mobile-first indexing, then Google will have to find out the content of a web page on its own.
People were sceptical, thinking that Google isn’t entirely upfront and honest about ranking factors. In fact, some may have chosen to stop believing in Mueller’s statements altogether. Nevertheless, the notion that meta descriptions are a ranking signal seems to be baseless.
For one, it’s very easy to manipulate meta descriptions. One can simply put the keywords they wish to rank for. Afterwards, Google will immediately recognise this as a signal that the page should rank for that term phrase.
Back in the day, on-page optimisation was very formulaic, and one could alter keywords throughout their titles, meta descriptions, and subheadings to change their rankings. That’s precisely why meta descriptions lost their value as a ranking signal.
Matt Cutts also explained in 2009 that Google’s search engine judged content only on the web page and did not consider off-page factors, such as links directed to a web page. Google disregarded keywords meta tags because they were often abused by site owners. And although the search engine company uses meta descriptions as snippets in the search results, they do not use them for ranking websites.
And even today, a meta description assigned to a specific page might not appear in the search results. In 2018, Google often refused to use the original meta description and make its own description to show in the search results. Google also did not have any reasons for rewriting meta descriptions; the search engine company would always rewrite descriptions, whether they were long or short or written with a low or high keyword density.
It was also discovered that Google utilises content from the first paragraph of a page to generate the search snippet in two-thirds of cases. More recently, Google rewrites meta descriptions 70 per cent of the time.
Meta Descriptions Are Not a Ranking Factor
Google has not used the meta description as a search ranking signal since 1999, but that does not necessarily mean that they are not important when writing blog content for SEO, or indeed any other type of content.
Below are some of the benefits of optimising meta descriptions:
- help differentiate one’s content from competitors in the search engine results pages
- improve click-through rates from search results
- intrigue and engage searchers to click through and visit the website
- boost brand visibility
The SEO community should not think of meta descriptions as a ranking factor as Google has not used them to rank websites for a long time. With that being said, they can indirectly improve rankings via user behaviour signals and increased site traffic.
Helpful Tips in Writing Efficient Meta Descriptions
Below are several tips for writing meta descriptions:
Whether it’s manufacturing, information technology, or business services, a company must understand what works for its competitors. One should also keep an eye on relevant SERPs and examine which meta descriptions appear in the top spots where they want to rank.
Map the customer’s journey
Identify your target audience’s optimal purchasing path and what happens at each step of the marketing funnel. The marketing funnel might be quite different depending on the target market. Therefore, one should customise their meta descriptions according to their findings.
Use a unique tone and style
A brand’s tone of voice should be distinct from its competitors and have a consistent identity since this is how the brand appears to users in the search results. Each meta description should be uniquely written and tailored to the style of voice that amplifies itself across the company’s ecosystem. For instance, one should not employ the same tone of voice for a corporate law website as they would for a daycare site. The same goes for meta descriptions; their tone of voice for each page should be different.
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Position1SEO is the premier SEO agency in the business. Our team of experienced professionals will help you create compelling title tags and meta descriptions that will increase your search rankings and drive more traffic to your website. With our SEO content writing strategies, you can be sure to entice more users to click through and visit your website. We only use positive link building methods that have been tried and tested, so you can rest assured that no stone will be left unturned when it comes to your SEO.
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