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.