Do Meta Descriptions Matter?
The official Google answer to this question is below, in a recent video from Matt Cutts.
That’s not the end of this post, because it’s fairly clear that the official Google answers don’t satisfy everyone. Recently, a prospective client took us to task for suggesting improvements to his site’s meta descriptions. Meta descriptions are a bit of code that tells briefly what your page is about.
They don’t show up on your page, so some people — like our prospective client — believe that they don’t matter.
Here’s the sense in which they don’t matter: you can’t put something in your meta description that differs from what’s on your page and expect search engines to take your word for it.
For the much more important sense in which they do matter, look at the example above from our lab site. FreshPlans offers lesson plans and resources for K-12 teachers, we said, and then we went on to describe the specific kinds of resources the site specializes in. If a visitor to this page is looking for classroom resources focusing on 21st century skills, they’re likely to click through. The Twitter account has a similar but different description; if you’re a K-12 teacher with a modern classroom, this is an account you might choose to follow.
Look at the YouTube description, though. This video is called, “FreshPlans Goes to the Farmers Market” and it is, as you might expect, a nice video supporting lesson plans on farmers markets. Its description says, “Non-Newtonian Fluid on a Speaker Cone 1:18. Watch Later Error Non- Newtonian Fluid on a Speaker Coneby …” A visitor looking for a classroom video for that Farm Week lesson will probably pass that by.
Clearly, we forgot to provide a good description here, and we need to fix it. If you don’t have a meta description, or it doesn’t match your content, search engines will grab something from the website that appeals to them — and remember, they’re robots.
Other bad things we’ve seen in the descriptions on the SERPs (search engines results pages):
- Lists of numbers
- Numerous repetitions of the primary keyword
- Pointless lists of keywords
- The name and web address of the site designer
- “We need to put a meta description here.”
These things don’t encourage people to click through to your website.
And now, since you’ve been persuaded by these specific examples, the official answer from Google: