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Meta Descriptions Can Affect Ranking - Because of Personalization

     
3:56 pm on Jan 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

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For years it has been assumed that meta descriptions are not part of the algorithm and they have no direct bearing on your actual rank in Google. But think about this, folks... now that Google has introduced the personalized results for various searches, whether you like it or not, your CTR is definitely going to affect the ranking of your site for the next similar search, or a search for something in the next 180 days. Since your meta description is heavily tied to CTRs, the more robust the description that promotes CTR, the more affected your ranking in G. Though it does not tie into actual keywords in the description, or proximity, etc., (i.e. the actual algorithm), it will ow be more important then ever to realy tweak your descriptions to compel clicks. Every click through is now recorded in history so every future search will be affected.

Welcome to the new world of Personalized Search ;-)

7:03 pm on Jan 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Does anyone know of any studies that have been done on CTR when the snippet is a well written' call to action' as opposed to just a list of keywords? How much difference DOES it make? (I'd imagine it might vary from niche to niche and perhaps depending on the type of search too)
8:54 pm on Jan 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I've done a few studies on the topic (but they're not published). I found that a description which offers a good "information scent" to the user will often outperform a "click here to find..." call-to-action style of description.

My sense is that the call to action style is pretty old school and it's too close to offline marketing for many search users. I think it often gets tuned out - sort of an analog to banner blindness.

10:03 pm on Jan 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

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meta description has indirectly effected rankings for some years now.
They just need to describe the page content perfectly while stimulating interest.
7:35 pm on Jan 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

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tedster,

Could you explain what you mean exactly by "information scent"?

10:02 pm on Jan 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

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"Information Scent" is a phrase I first heard from Jakob Nielsen. Here's an idea of what it means: from a quick scan of a page, does it "smell" like the content the user is looking for might be nearby, a click or two away? That scent is mostly communicated through navigational links, whether in the main site template, auxiliary navigation or content area linked words.

When the old "3-click rule" was discredited in actual user testing, the discovery made was that people would keep clicking into a site, up to 15 times or more, IF the information scent was strong enough.

Here are some related articles:

Information Foraging: Why Google Makes People Leave Your Site Faster [useit.com]

Deceivingly Strong Information Scent Costs Sales [useit.com]

[edited by: tedster at 6:46 pm (utc) on Jan. 14, 2010]

1:08 am on Jan 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Nice resources there Tedster, thanks.
1:21 am on Jan 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Meta descriptions have no affect on rankngs, in my opinion. I have not used meta descriptions in years and hsve good rankings across major search engines.
3:50 pm on Jan 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Whether the description tag is used or not is debatable. What is for certain though, is that Google many times uses all or parts of the description tag in their serps.

Almost every serp for our sites display a part of the tag. I would think that if you do not include a description tag, you are not giving possible visitors to your site enough info to decide if they want to click through to your site. This I believe may cause your site to not rank as well due to lower click-through rates.

4:04 pm on Jan 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I expect the description to be a brief summary of the page telling me what is it that I will find once I go there.
4:17 pm on Jan 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Last I checked meta descriptions still have weight, if its attributed to CTR or if well written thatís another question. Google just creates their own snippet anyway so making sure your meta description and on page content is well written is important.