Is a Meta Description Necessary in Google?

May 19, 2008 • 9:50 am | comments (9) by twitter | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

Less than a month ago, a lawsuit ruling determined that META tags are "immaterial" -- at least within Google, so forum members are wondering how important it is to add the meta description to web pages. Is there any benefit to this or should Google pick the best snippet based on users' queries?

Well, considering that Google isn't the only search engine out there, adding a meta description helps other search engines like Live, Yahoo, and Ask. Further, as forum member tedster notes, "Google will still use their own snippet for some query terms, if the snippet team's algo decides that the meta description isn't good enough for that query."

Another forum member makes an interesting case regarding not using meta descriptions at all. The more popular pages will probably come up for a variety of different searches, and as such, it's important to keep an open mind to see what comes up in the results:

Higher level pages are more likely to attract a broader keyword set and therefore by excluding a meta description you are allowing Google to highlight the term that the user searched on, increasing perceived relevancy. This ensures that if Google returns the page in the SERPS, the keyword will appear in the meta description, which may not have been the case if you had not included it in the meta description. Although you would think that if Google could return a snippet with the keyword they would default to that instead of the meta description.

That's an interesting observation.

Other people have said that they're starting to shift their meta descriptions to the title because Google no longer emphasizes the meta description. I'm not sure that's a good thing because if title tags are the next spam target, Google might start shifting its emphasis to something else.

Forum discussion continues at WebmasterWorld.

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No Name

05/19/2008 04:42 pm

if the meta tag description was not so important to Google, it woulb be left out their webmaster central, just like the keyword meta tag is!

No Name

05/19/2008 05:40 pm

Google does not use the meta description as the snippet description in the SERP unless the keyword being searched for is not found on your page but your page is still relevant to that query. The snippet is the first instance of the keyword searched that is found on your page. So ......How does leaving out Meta Data help w/ google again?

Michael Martinez

05/19/2008 06:59 pm

This latest round of meta tag discussion underscores just how poorly the SEO community understands what the search engines are doing with the meta description. The lack of standards in our industry doesn't help educate the masses very quickly, does it?

D. Mark

05/20/2008 05:42 am

I think it is a mistake to think that Google does not put emphasis on meta descriptions. On all of our sites we have seen a huge difference in rankings after we placed unique meta descriptions for each page. The difference in rankings was astonishing.


05/20/2008 03:51 pm

We use meta description and keyword tags because most clients expect us to use them. As long as they accurately describe the content of the page, they should be used. If you leave them out and the engines re-adjust the algo to consider these, then you would have some extra work to do.

Brian Ussery

05/20/2008 04:12 pm

By using meta descriptions webmasters can help control how Google selects snippets returned in SERPs! "And it's worth noting that while accurate meta descriptions can improve clickthrough, they won't affect your ranking within search results."

No Name

05/20/2008 05:06 pm

Adding meta description is still usefull at Google to let him compare the correspondence of the page respect to the content. I noticed that along the keyword extraction process in general. In addition to what Brian rightly said.

Bill Sebald

05/20/2008 05:54 pm

The meta description is a key part of SEO - that messaging in the SERPs is an integral part of clicks; today, SEO is not just about the technical/rankings - it's marketing and philosophy.


02/03/2012 03:16 am

It doesn't affect ranking at all anymore, so pretty useless. I've used meta descriptions on sites I run and not used them. The difference is, well, there is no difference in how the sites rank so, as Google has pretty much said over and over, if you read between the lines, they don't use them to rank a site anymore.

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