Google explains if meta descriptions still affect search rankings
“Optimise meta titles and meta descriptions on your website” is a common SEO tip for a more search-engine friendly website and higher search engine rankings.
However, is that advice still valid? More specifically, do meta descriptions still affect search engine rankings?
There has always been some debate around this topic. Modern-day SEOs have believed that meta descriptions no longer matter as a search engine ranking factor. On the other hand, traditional SEO professionals still believe that meta descriptions can affect search engine rankings as they provide an opportunity to include primary and semantically related keywords.
Google’s John Mueller recently clarified how meta descriptions work, and the answer lies somewhere in between.
How does Google use meta descriptions?
According to Google’s documentation, meta descriptions are used for generating search results snippets.
But what purpose does it serve?
The primary purpose of a meta description is to communicate to search engine users what a web page is about, so they have a fair bit of idea of what to expect if they click on a search result and land on that website.
Simply put, it is supposed to be a brief “description” of a web page.
Google also says that there is no limit on how long a meta description can be, but there is a limit — based on the user’s device and browser — on many characters Google would show on the SERPs.
Last but not least, Google advises that each page should have a unique meta description. Duplicate meta descriptions may hurt your website’s search engine rankings.
Does Google use meta descriptions for search engine rankings?
During a recent session of Google Search Central SEO Office Hours, one person asked if adding the location name in the meta description would help search engine rankings.
“Does adding the location name in the meta description matter to Google in terms of ranking if the content quality is maintained?”
Google’s John Mueller responded by saying, “The meta description is primarily used as a snippet in the search results page. And that’s not something that we would use for ranking.”
However, John further elaborated that a well-thought-out meta description can help with organic click-through rates.
“But, obviously, having a good snippet on a search results page can make it more interesting for people to actually visit your page when they see your page ranking in the search results.”
Meta description tips for local businesses
For local businesses who want to follow the best SEO practices, we recommend the following tips:
- Make sure that each web page has a meta description.
- Make sure that each meta description is unique and that there is no duplicate content.
- Make sure that the main focus of the meta description is on accurately describing the web page — not on keywords.
- Try to make that meta description engaging and inviting. The goal is to accurately describe the page and encourage more people to click on the search result to drive traffic.
You can watch John Mueller’s answer in this time-stamped video.