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From the Blog:
The Content analysis summary page within the Diagnostics section of Webmaster Tools features three main categories. Click on a particular issue type for more details:
- Title tag issues
- Meta description issues
- Non-indexable content issues
Selecting "Duplicate title tags" displays a list of repeated page titles along with a count of how many pages contain that title. We currently present up to thirty duplicated page titles on the details page. If the duplicate title issues shown are corrected, we'll update the list to reflect any other pages that share duplicate titles the next time your website is crawled.
Also, in the Title tag issues category, we show "Long title tags" and "Short title tags." For these issue types we will identify title tags that are way too short (for example "IT" isn't generally a good title tag) or way too long (title tag was never intended to mean <insert epic novel here>). A similar algorithm identifies potentially problematic meta description tags. While these pointers won't directly help you rank better (i.e. pages with <title> length x aren't moved to the top of the search results), they may help your site display better titles and snippets in search results, and this can increase visitor traffic.
In the "Non-indexable content issues," we give you a heads-up of areas that aren't as friendly to our more text-based crawler. And be sure to check out our posts on Flash and images to learn how to make these items more search-engine friendly.
[edited by: tedster at 8:05 pm (utc) on Dec. 14, 2007]
Do these two reports mean that you have a page where you get traffic for a keyword that:
1. appears in the meta description
2. does not appear anywhere else on the page
3. does not appear in any backlinks - either in the anchor text or near the anchor text
If it's also in the body and/or backlinks, that's an entirely different issue. Still, in that case you could take it out of the description and have the page rank all the same. ( and might also watch your CTR/traffic fall )
The point is, the META description is not considered as content/on-page text/a ranking factor. The copy in your ALT attributes ( properties? ) will make you rank sooner than anything in there.
I've always heard that while google indexes the meta description and it may be displayed in the SERPs, it is not used in the ranking algorithm at all - as Susan who works at Google and several other posters I really respect like Tedster have said above.
LOL Just noticed there were a few extra posts on the next page to the same affect. I have NEVER seen meta descriptions causing a page to rank for a particular keyword. My guess is it was something similar to what tedster described where another site (or even an internal page on your site) is linking to that page w/ anchor text containing the keyword that appears in the description and not in the page content/title.
[edited by: ZydoSEO at 12:23 am (utc) on Dec. 30, 2007]