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