Meta Tags – Keywords Still Dead, Description Quite Important

Meta Tags. Those bothersome tags in the header region of every html page. Are they important? Which ones should you use? How does Google view them?

Meta Keywords are dead

Last year I posted about meta keywords no longer being used or needed. In fact, Mr. Google himself, Matt Cutts, explained that Google “disregards keyword metatags *completely*”.

Bing has a similar statement, saying these tags were often abused and carry little to no weight.

So, it is still valid today to say: “Meta Keywords are not helpful at all with SEO. The major search engines ignore them when crawling web pages.

Meta Description is important

Google has stated they do not use the meta description in their ranking algorithm. Bing also does not use it for ranking purposes.

So it’s dead, right?

Well, for ranking, yes, it’s dead – useless – a waste of time. But this little tag is used as the snippet of text under a link in Google *if* Google finds it relevant to the content on the page.

The “snippet” makes it important to use and get right. Why? Because it can help people click on the link.

How important is it?

One study shows the snippet to be the most important

A recent eye tracking study demonstrated that people searching for information spent over 50% of their time looking at the text under a link in the search results. This was almost double the amount of time they spent looking at the title.

(yes, part of that is due to the text being longer to read, so more time is spent there, but it’s still noteworthy)

I thought about this, and realized that when I’m looking for information in Google, the text under each link is my “visual cue” as to which link will give me the best information. The title catches my eye first – but I quickly prioritize which link to click based on the snippet saying something relevant to my question.

In other words – The meta description is just as important as the title when I’m searching in Google.

Long live the Meta Description!

Based on the above, it makes sense to have a great meta description for each page. A few ideas to keep in mind when crafting the perfect meta description:

  • Make the description relevant and informative
  • Be brief (1-2 sentences at most)
  • Don’t keyword stuff it

And my most important rule:

Write the description for people, not search engines!

Since Google is ignoring it for SEO purposes, make your meta description appealing to people so they click on your link. Give it the importance you would give to the title of a blog post or heading of a web page.

Your “organic search results being clicked on” will thank you for it.

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3 Comments

  1. Rhonda says:

    Bottom line. Do you want people to actually click on your website that you worked hard to get to the top of the search engines? Then get the meta description right.

    I had a site ranked in the top 5 in Google and couldn’t figure out why my traffic wasn’t nearly what the keyword tools said it should be.

    I completely rewrote my meta description and traffic doubled as soon as the search engines made the change in their listing.

    – RD

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