Some time back, major search engines utilized Meta keywords and Meta descriptions in their respective ranking algorithms. However, since around 2009, that has changed. What this effectively means is that on its own, having a Meta description that includes Meta tags and keywords may not help you rank better. Nevertheless, preparing a good Meta description remains a good practice in digital marketing, but for different reasons—many of which directly have an impact on your SEO.
So the question that begs an answer is why Meta-descriptions are still in use if they don’t assist in ranking a site?
Impact on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs)
Meta descriptions and Meta tags have no direct effect on the ranking of your page. The reason these two tools still matter is that they often appear as ‘snippets’ of your page in Search Engine Results Pages. The Meta description should be viewed as your page sales pitch. You can use it to describe your page in such a manner that prompts the user to click on.
To save time and avoid online frustration, a searcher will ideally want to click on the page that has most relevance to their needs. When you write a Meta description for your page that is compelling, a searcher is more likely to click on.
Click-Through Rate (CTR)
SEO experts agree that Meta descriptions (and tags) aren’t a direct factor when it comes to ranking. However, as they appear as page snippets, they have a great impact on Click-Through Rates, an important SEO ranking factor. Whether a search engine result gets clicked on (or not)is one of the first clues picked by search engines like Bing or Google on whether it’s a good match to the searcher’s query.
As search engines are gathering more data regarding how searchers are clicking (or not clicking) through website search results, they are getting a clearer picture of whether a particular page makes a good match for a specific search query. This is the data that gets factored into your page rankings.
What writing a good Meta description does is to influence visitor/user clicks. A well- prepared Meta description helps in selling your webpage so long as it remains relevant to your keyword(s). You should stop looking at Meta descriptions and tags as ranking factors but as conversion factors.
Used by Social Networks
Whenever a page is shared on social networks such as Google+, LinkedIn or Facebook, each site either pulls the first 1-2 sentences or the Meta description of the post to display in the share. Usually, the Meta description gets displayed in its entirety. Additionally, lots of social bookmarking networks use your Meta description on their network as a page’s description.
The world of SEO is rapidly changing—and it becomes hard to keep track of all these updates and trends. However, the bottom-line is that meta-descriptions still matter to SEO although for different reasons from which they once did. Today, the best practice in SEO is to conduct critical keyword research, implement the identified keywords into your page content, and use Meta descriptions and tags naturally.