Importance of Meta Description in Getting Click-Throughs & Better Ranks
If the question is- Do meta descriptions directly affect rankings on SERPs? The answer to this would be- no, they don’t. Google has, on more than one occasion, denied using meta description content as a factor in their algorithm for determining rankings on their search results.
The following is from a 2007 post on Google Webmaster Central Blog
“It’s worth noting that while accurate meta descriptions can improve clickthrough, they won’t affect your ranking within search results.”
Again, in a post in 2009, Google stated the same thing
“Google doesn’t use the “keywords” meta tag in our web search ranking.”
While the above two posts are enough to suggest that meta descriptions do not play a direct role in rankings, it would be utterly unwise to classify them as inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.
Why Meta Descriptions Are Important
Type in any search query on Google and you’ll see something like this on the results page.
As highlighted by the red box in the image, the meta description occupies the most space in the result entry. When a user types in a new search and goes through the results, the meta descriptions play a major role in convincing the user to click on a particular result.
Now if you are writing meta descriptions that are convincing enough, then you are increasing your chances of getting a click-through from each user that views your listing on SERPs.
Meta Descriptions > Click-Through Rate > Rankings
So, Google does not count meta descriptions, agreed. But it does count user behavior as an important ranking factor. And how does it quantify user behavior? By using a metric called the Click-Through Rate (CTR).
The CTR helps search engines like Google to understand if results on their SERPs are being clicked-on by users, thus telling them if they hold relevance to the query or not. Results with better CTRs will hold more relevance in the eyes of search engines and hence rank better.
Writing Meta Descriptions That Generate Click-Throughs
Now that we have established a relation between meta descriptions and rankings via CTR, let’s move on to writing descriptions that generate good CTRs. Here are some useful tips:
Describe What’s Inside
Your descriptions should give the user a brief idea of what the underlying pages holds. Users would want to know if the content of your pages are relevant to what they are looking for.
Try to subtly persuade them to click on your link. You can either use a call-to-action or something that can generate a response.
Though Google does not consider meta descriptions for rankings, you would still want to include keywords in your descriptions. When you have some words that match the search query put in by users, it’ll help you establish greater relevancy.
Stay Within the Limits
Do not stretch your descriptions beyond the specified 156 character length, otherwise it will be cut short by Google and your message will be displayed incomplete.
Also, try to keep the most powerful, relevant or persuasive words/phrases of your description in the beginning to have a greater chance of drawing attention.
Meta descriptions are important for SEO, as they do influence rankings even if the manner isn’t direct. Write meta descriptions to win users and increase CTRs, thus telling search engines that your page is relevant and is worthy of being awarded high rankings on SERPs.