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Meta description does matter. Jumped 3 spots after change.
johnnie




msg:3802480
 12:07 pm on Dec 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

Wow, I am suprised; after all the depreciation of META tags, it seems google is starting to factor them in again. One of my pages, which was ranked #7 on a fairly competitive keyword and lacked META tags, actually jumped three full spots after adding an appropriate META description.

The time span between change and ranking boost is too short to be able to attribute the rise to improved CTR. It appears an appropriately dense META description really helps to boost your rankings

 

tedster




msg:3802853
 8:46 pm on Dec 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

That's interesting and it certainly is suggestive. However, you do understand that one example it isn't really a true test, or a proof of cause-and-effect, right? Not everything that happens after some event is actually caused by that event.

If you are brave and want to build up another data point, try removing the meta description and see what happens then. But even if your ranking went back to the previous position, that would still not be proof - you would need to repeat the test on several urls, and prefereably on various domains as well.

Google reps have said in the past that they did not use the meta description for ranking calculations. However, the meta description was used for many other purposes, and especially on low PR pages, the lack of a unique meta description sometimes made the difference between being in the Supplemental Index and the regular index.

So you may be right and something has changed at Google. But seeing one snowflake doesn't mean it's winter, you know? More data is needed before any conclusion can be drawn.

johnnie




msg:3802873
 9:11 pm on Dec 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

Tedster,

I agree that we need more observations in order to reliably draw any sort of conclusion. It just struck me that the rise in ranking coincided exactly with the adoption of my new meta description. I check almost daily, so it appears to me as more than just a coincidence. The page in question is PR4; nothing special, but it's definately not a 'low PR site'.

gouri




msg:3803472
 4:23 pm on Dec 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

I think it is good if Google counts the meta description. If a page is targeting certain keywords and the meta description contains a summary that includes these keywords I think it adds to the overall value of the page, and should move up in the SERP.

Shaddows




msg:3803540
 5:16 pm on Dec 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

If a page is targeting certain keywords and the meta description contains a summary that includes these keywords I think it adds to the overall value of the page, and should move up in the SERP

It is exactly that POV that means it doesn't count. Description should be exactly that- an intro to the page. If keywords occur, fine. I cannot imagine how quickly your average joe will get peeved with a search engine that returns a bunch of keyword-stuffed snippets. It would add no value.

Good on google for discouraging this practice.

Re: OP. I can imagine the existance of a description might be a minor plus compared to no description, especially if they can recognise a 'bad' descripion (keyword stuffed, duplicated, non-grammatical etc) and ignore that.

Robert Charlton




msg:3803934
 2:18 am on Dec 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

It just struck me that the rise in ranking coincided exactly with the adoption of my new meta description. I check almost daily, so it appears to me as more than just a coincidence.

Coincidences always coincide.

Unless you can demonstrate a causal connection, or at least a consistent correlation, the two events are likely to be coincidental.

bekyed




msg:3805019
 9:55 am on Dec 11, 2008 (gmt 0)

To me this makes perfect sense too.

We have just built a brand new website and the meta description from the old site was still on the new one as we had not chnged this yet.
Some of the keywords in the meta desciption didn't appear on the page, so we tweaked this to be more relevant to the new content, and the site jumped up a few places too.
Coincidence or not?

Bek.

steveb




msg:3805045
 10:35 am on Dec 11, 2008 (gmt 0)

Having a meta description has always mattered with Google.

Not having one makes a page far more likely to be supplemental. What the description says doesn't matter though, just so long as it is 60+ characters or whatever the minimum is.

Shaddows




msg:3805063
 11:28 am on Dec 11, 2008 (gmt 0)

What the description says doesn't matter though

Unless you're actually interested in your CTR

steveb




msg:3805599
 10:25 pm on Dec 11, 2008 (gmt 0)

Well, yes about that of course. Description is hugely important since that with the title and domain/url is all a searcher sees.

LifeinAsia




msg:3805612
 10:39 pm on Dec 11, 2008 (gmt 0)

What the description says doesn't matter though, just so long as it is 60+ characters or whatever the minimum is.

And it helps if it's unique, at least for your site.

If you think about it, the results make sense- 1,000 pages with no META Description is 1,000 pages of identical META Descriptions. Make them non-identical and Google will take more interest.

steveb




msg:3805616
 10:47 pm on Dec 11, 2008 (gmt 0)

"And it helps if it's unique, at least for your site."

Yes, that too. Duplicate descriptions is poisonous too. 60+ characters of unique description on each page is critically vital to the health of that page.

tedster




msg:3805781
 4:15 am on Dec 12, 2008 (gmt 0)

All these recent points about the importance of a meta description are true enough - but the opening post was talking about something a bit more surprising - because the url was already ranking well and then it improved:

One of my pages, which was ranked #7 on a fairly competitive keyword and lacked META tags, actually jumped three full spots after adding an appropriate META description.

If anyone has a parallel situation and can test out the effects of adding a description to w well ranking page that currently has none, that would be very good to hear about.

steveb




msg:3805901
 8:39 am on Dec 12, 2008 (gmt 0)

It's the same point. having a meta description is good. The opening post just repeated it in a different way.

AnkitMaheshwari




msg:3806062
 12:20 pm on Dec 12, 2008 (gmt 0)

For one of my client site I was ranking on #13 for a long time for the most generic keyword.

I keep changing the Meta description (of the home page) along with off page as this was the keyword that is most valued by the client. Until now the keyword "blue widget" was appearing as the 4th word in the Meta description while very first word in Title.

Last week I made changes and forcefully started the description with Blue widget (though the sentence structure is not that great) but guess what I was on #10 (#9 for a day initially) after the home page got indexed the next day.

The site is targeting UK market in this case(Google UK, pages from UK)

bekyed




msg:3806181
 3:28 pm on Dec 12, 2008 (gmt 0)

Looks like you have opened a can of worms here Steve ;)

supafresh




msg:3806204
 4:00 pm on Dec 12, 2008 (gmt 0)

Did google create its own snippet in the serps for your page with no meta? Or did the SERPS show no meta description for the page?

Shaddows




msg:3806220
 4:35 pm on Dec 12, 2008 (gmt 0)

own snippet. Sometimes it does that anyway if your description is not relevant. I think you can only get a bare listing from a referres URL on a noindex page.

Receptional Andy




msg:3806443
 10:23 pm on Dec 12, 2008 (gmt 0)

My understanding is that the meta description is not indexed text - you can't retrieve pages based on their meta description element, and so it isn't like altering the wording on a page. In some respects, meta description is more like an HTTP header than a part of the page.

That said, descriptions seem to be used to make certain "quality" judgements about the page. If a search engine already have a page in the index with the same description, that decreases the chance that it needs to keep both. If the description bears no relation to the page itself, or contains "undesirable" sequences of words, then again, it's less likely to be a good candidate to be included. But this is more spam detection than analysing relevance.

Above excepted, I've never noticed ranking fluctuations caused by the addition of meta elements, although I suppose it's possible, and I'll keep an eye out. But as others have intimated, it's a dynamic web, and correlation does not imply causation. There could equally have been a new link, a re-evaluated link or any number of other external factors influencing changing SERPS.

From a marketing point of view, of course, a meta description is free advertising, and a job for a good copywriter ;)

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