The Impact of META Descriptions

We recently had a discussion at LSM regarding META Descriptions, and how they fit into on-site SEO. While META Descriptions don’t have a direct impact on SEO like Page Titles do, they do have an impact – albeit indirectly.

When creating a META Description our primary goal is to get qualified users to click-through. Therefore, our descriptions should:

  • Be action oriented to encourage a click-through
  • Include a targeted keyword or keywords (think relevancy)
  • Include brand recognition with a mention of the company or brand
  • Be unique on each page

I mentioned above that META Descriptions don’t have a direct impact on SEO, but what about that indirect impact? Google are constantly tweaking their algorithm based on the data they collect – this data includes bounces, time on site, as well as someone navigating back to Google and performing another search. A good indicator of a highly relevant and quality website could be a low bounce rate and high time on site. Alternatively, an indicator of a website not related to a user’s search could be an instant bounce, or the user hitting the back arrow in their browser to perform another search. I believe that this is just some of the user data Google takes into account when evaluating SERPs.

Ideally, you should create META Descriptions with the thought of them being the first entry points into your website. That’s why it’s important not to use the same tone for a low priority internal page such as a Contact Us page, as you would with a high priority category page or product item page in an e-commerce store.

There is however one additional reason to have high-quality and relevant META Descriptions. To quote Google’s Chief of Web Spam, Matt Cutts on the recent Panda Update:

This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites—sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.

Google’s Panda update came down hard on low-quality websites, they’re not just looking at certain aspects of a site now, they’re taking the whole site into consideration. Having unique META Descriptions on each page which are relevant and grammatically correct is a quality signal to Google. Not taking the time to create descriptions and taking shortcuts on your site won’t add up to much of a signal, but getting the small things right as part of a holistic SEO campaign allows you to make a signal of intent. What kind of signal does your site make?

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