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September 14, 2008

An Argument: Use Meta-Descriptions, They’re Not Obsolete

by Anthony Verre

Meta-Descriptions are Good For You

There’s some talk out there that meta-descriptions are a waste of time and aren’t really needed when optimizing your site. That’s nonsense. Pure and simple.

Every major search engine uses meta descriptions, and every major search engine bolds the terms from the query in your TITLE TAG and META-DESCRIPTION in the SERPs. It’s valuable, otherwise, what would be the point of showing the meta-description and bolding the terms in the Big Three? Like so:

And, I have to point out to SE Roundtable, that meta-data is NOT the same as meta-keywords. Easy way to put it is: they are the same genus, different species. And, I agree, meta-keywords are fairly worthless, especially on top-level pages. But, as you can see above, every engine displays and takes into account the meta-description. Now, whether they weight the ranking that page is given organically, only the engines really know that. Because, as far as I know, no one knows the exact elements and weight to Google, Yahoo!, and MSN’s algorithms.

Moreover, SEOMoz compiled a great report of Search Engine Ranking Factors and their importance based on what 37 industry leaders (names we all know and recognize). Here’s the introductory text from Rand Fishkin:

This document represents the collective wisdom of 37 leaders in the world of organic search engine optimization. Together, they have voted on the various factors that are estimated to comprise Google’s ranking algorithm (the method by which the search engine orders results). The result is a resource of incredible value – although not every one of the estimated 200+ ranking elements are included, it is my opinion that 90-95% of the knowledge required about Google’s algorithm is contained below.

I would like to make special mention of the Meta-Description section:

37 leaders in the SEO industry think meta-description is “moderately important”. Not to mention, some of the sites we work on with completely bare meta-data, begin to rank well after a month or so after we insert some solid keywords and long-tail into the meta-description. So, yes, I think it’s important. And, frankly, not writing meta-descriptions is simply doing your sites and injustice.

Let’s not forget that Google Webmaster Tools tracks them and identifies duplicates. It’s about as blatant as it’s going to get to the SEO world: make unique meta-descriptions because we count them and they mean something.

Don’t get me wrong, I think forum discussion on WebMaster World is useful as a logic/thought puzzle in Search Engine Algorithm Theory, but can’t be taken seriously by SEOs whom clients pay for results. And, hopefully, I’ve compiled enough evidence here, that you’ll see you can’t ignore them.

If anyone out there has evidence to the contrary, by all means, my ears are open.

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