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Is it a good idea to remove the meta description tag?
chrisv1963




msg:4435167
 9:58 am on Mar 30, 2012 (gmt 0)

I sometimes have the feeling that pages without a description meta tag (or a bad description) rank better.

1. I started a wordpress blog a while ago. It only has title tags, no description tags. It ranks like crazy for certain search terms.

2. I have some old web pages where the title tag and the description tag are exactly the same. I didn't worry too much about seo then and simply copied and pasted to save time.
For those pages Google ignores the description tag and replaces it by a snippet from the web page text. These pages rank very well too.

This makes me wondering whether or not it would be better to simply forget about the description tags and remove them from all pages.

Did anyone try this already?

 

rango




msg:4435181
 10:52 am on Mar 30, 2012 (gmt 0)

I don't think it makes much difference either way. The main benefit of having the description tag there is for some situations where Google decides it's better to use that instead of a snippet from the page. If you can't generate a good description though, I don't see much problem with leaving it out entirely.

petehall




msg:4435198
 11:41 am on Mar 30, 2012 (gmt 0)

If you're automatically generating pages with a loop, it would be a good idea as I'm pretty sure Google is not keen on iteration patterns of this nature.

Of course this will be no use if your content doesn't change on each page.

If each page is independent and static, you'd be better off writing a 'unique' description for each page as then you can control what the user sees in SERPs.

Hope this helps.

Bluejeans




msg:4435199
 11:42 am on Mar 30, 2012 (gmt 0)

I don't see what the point would be of removing the tags. They certainly don't hurt and, for particularly competitive keywords, they may help Google understand the relevancy of the page to the search.

netmeg




msg:4435211
 12:31 pm on Mar 30, 2012 (gmt 0)

You might rank, but you still want to stand out from the other nine results on the page (and everything else) So pay attention to the meta description. It's your one chance to actually influence the click.

wingslevel




msg:4435213
 12:35 pm on Mar 30, 2012 (gmt 0)

an interesting idea. i am not so sure that meta descriptions can't hurt. dupes get flagged in wmt - we know that it is a metric - albeit not a strong signal or component of the algo. large database driven sites are going to autogenerate meta descriptions and this is where the harm may come - no doubt google can identify this and they may conclude that this is low value auto-generated stuff that they don't have an appetite for - with variations of the oop lurking out there, this may be a risk not worth taking...

HuskyPup




msg:4435216
 12:42 pm on Mar 30, 2012 (gmt 0)

I consider the meta description as extremely important especially when used in conjunction with an identical/very similar on-page description. As netmeg wrote:

but you still want to stand out from the other nine results on the page


Honestly, if I showed you my pages v competition in the results you would realise why my hand-built pages rank so well and why I have also considered the huge task, for me, of converting my Coppermine galleries into hand-built ones.

Ignore unique descriptions at your peril.

rlange




msg:4435278
 2:53 pm on Mar 30, 2012 (gmt 0)

chrisv1963 wrote:
1. I started a wordpress blog a while ago. It only has title tags, no description tags. It ranks like crazy for certain search terms.

2. I have some old web pages where the title tag and the description tag are exactly the same. I didn't worry too much about seo then and simply copied and pasted to save time.
For those pages Google ignores the description tag and replaces it by a snippet from the web page text. These pages rank very well too.

As I see it, descriptions are more about CTR than ranking, so I wouldn't even consider where a particular page currently ranks in your decision.

Whatever you do, don't write crappy descriptions because certain people insist that you should have a meta description on every page. If you can write good, concise descriptions, do that. If you feel that Google's auto-selected snippets are better than anything you could write, leave it alone. Google might save you from yourself by replacing a crappy meta description with an auto-selected snippet, but if you're not confident, don't risk it.

--
Ryan

Catalyst




msg:4435376
 7:15 pm on Mar 30, 2012 (gmt 0)

One exception to the rule possibly LOCAL...

I've done SEO for over 11 years and although I've never done a bonafide test I have experienced several times that sometimes pages without description SEEM to rank higher.

But one exception - now I specialize in local and Google Places optimization and feel strongly that Google really likes description tags with EXACT match KW in them.

Do some competitive local searches like city dentist or city chiropractor or city plumber and you'll see over and over that the top couple sites tend to have exact match of search query in title AND description.

Linda Buquet

Sgt_Kickaxe




msg:4436024
 1:36 am on Apr 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

Custom descriptions should influence a click more than the stock snippet but I'm not sold on it being as big a factor as it might seem to be because

- Google doesn't always show the custom description
- Visitors don't always read more than the title in search
- A custom description may not be more influencing than the first couple lines of your text

Also, I removed descriptions on an entire site because the navigation text was being used as description in search results. Result: no change in traffic.

potentialgeek




msg:4436130
 10:30 am on Apr 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

Surely there is a research study on this fundamental topic online after 15 years?

tedster




msg:4436226
 3:17 pm on Apr 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

There are... but the target we're studying keeps shifting, so older studies no longer apply. In fact, there is some evidence that it has shifted again recently. The meta description apparently had no direct effect on ranking for several years, but now in one recent study (too small to be 100% conclusive) it looks like the meta description can impact relevance.

--------------

I've worked with sites that were doing quite well with no meta description - and adding one seemed to make no difference. The question here: are there other relevance signals that are so strong that the meta description becomes a "reinforcing signal" but doesn't add any boost to the rankings?

RP_Joe




msg:4437340
 5:48 am on Apr 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

I think the meta description can help. If your number five in the SERPs and you have a good title, and a good meta-description, and people click on your link before others, this helps. I have seen evidence, that the position will change, because people click on the number five consistently. So by improving title tags and meta-description you can move up in the rankings. In order for the meta-description to work though, we are making assumption that you have optimized the title tag. This is often overlooked area.
Many people don't spend much time on the title tags. They do them once and forget them.

I don't think Google is paying any attention to the description. Google is paying attention to the users. And so if the users click on a link because the meta-description is better than the one above it, it shifts the ranking up.

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