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When (and when not) to write meta descriptions

When (& when not) to write meta descriptions

A lot of old-school SEO discussions were spent on meta descriptions — length, content, keyword usage, and more.

Now the question is – are meta descriptions still important? And does changing your meta descriptions affect SEO?

You have run a site review with a crawl using your preferred SEO tool. Everything worked well, but then you are aware that hundreds, thousands or millions of pages on that site are missing meta descriptions.

Are you panicking?

You can tell your manager that you need to spend the next month writing 155 character descriptions for each web page on the site. But is it really the best use of your time?

Some web pages just do not need a meta description. Here’s why.

5 reasons why you might not want to write that meta description

Google is constantly testing and changing the way search results are displayed

The limit for displaying meta descriptions has changed several times. From ~ 150-165 characters, up to 260-275 characters, then back to 165 characters. Across the SEO industry has best practices on how long meta descriptions should be developed.

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These changes resulted in many results that had been optimized for the previously shorter version that looked suboptimal. So, once people changed meta descriptions to the new length, well … Google changed it back.

It takes a significant amount of time to optimize around these changes, and most sites would have been better off during this test period with no meta description rather than one that was too long or too short.

Organizations have limited resources

Although Google recommends that you “make sure every page on your site has a meta description”, they also state that their use of the tag to create search results pages is easy at best.

“Google will use sometimes the description tag from a page to generate a search results snippet if we believe it provides users with a more accurate description than would be possible solely from the content on the page. “

“Sometimes” does a lot of work.

Is your time better spent optimizing meta descriptions that are only occasionally used by search engines – or optimizing the content that is always used by search engines and users?

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Meta descriptions are the kind of thing that needs to be selectively focused on. It also means that they sometimes selectively ignore them.

Google usually writes its own description snippet

Google almost always writes its own description snippet, even if you provide a meta description.

A Yoast study comparing before and after Google’s change of description length found that in two-thirds of cases, Google used words from the first section of content on the page to create a description for the snippet.

Your time may be better spent optimizing the first paragraph rather than optimizing meta description tags if the goal is to influence description snippets.

Forcing Google to create descriptive snippets is often a big deal

Your meta description, which has become the words included in the code snippet on the SERP, has as much of a chance of driving a visitor away as it does of welcoming them.

Google’s John Mueller has said that one of the reasons they rewrite meta descriptions is because they want to exactly match the search query with the page.

The more you say in the clip, the greater the chance of reducing the mystery of what lies behind the click, for good, but often for bad.

For example, many blog posts rely on a large number of long tail keywords and answer many very different questions within the content of a single post.

Let’s say you write an article about apples where you also have a good description of oranges. Your meta description is about apples – and users searching for information about oranges assume that your site does not have this information.

By having a static description, the search result piece is less likely to contain the keywords that the searcher used. This may be less relevant than the Google-generated snippet of code.

Not all pages are equally important for SEO

Large sites often have thousands or millions of pages that never drive significant amounts of natural search traffic. Think about your privacy policy – how many organic visitors do you get there?

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It is a waste of time to manually – or even programmatically – maintain meta descriptions on web pages that do not have the potential to rank.

Do not let your consultant or toolkit fool you; you do not need a meta description on each page or even close to each page.

Remember that all content requires future maintenance. It would be far better to have no meta description than a bad or outdated one.

When revising your site for meta descriptions, distinguish between the pages that do and do not need them, and only maintain the necessary ones.

So when do you need a meta description?

4 times when you absolutely must provide a meta description

Homepage

Your website is probably your most critical web page, so the website deserves a good meta description.

Many websites are of a navigational nature, have more image and design elements and less section text compared to other pages on the site, which means that the need for a meta description increases. The less text on a page, the more likely it is to need a meta description.

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If you manage the site for a well-known brand, the meta description on the website gives a chance to influence the company’s perception directly on the search results page.

Product and category pages

If your site exists to help your organization sell, your product and category pages are probably the most critical pages on your site to serve potential interests at a later date.

These are the most important pages to get the right thing. These are definitely worth spending your time fine-tuning as much as possible.

Content viewed on Google

If your site has 2,000 old blog posts, but only the top 10% drive significant search traffic, then focus your efforts on them.

Improving the meta description for old content that does not rank (and will never rank in its current state) will not improve your traffic or your site at all – although your SEO tool might tell you otherwise !.

Improve descriptions for pages that have a significant display volume.

Pages found in natural search, but missing text content

Many web pages that serve embedded videos, widgets, and apps lack descriptive text that Google can use for the description.

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Similarly, resources and other pages that are pretty much just a list of links have nothing to subtract from to create an optimal description.

In these cases, a website must be sure to provide a meta description that search engines can use.

Again, the golden rule is: The smaller the text on a page, the more important a meta description becomes.

Know when to ignore warnings, best practices, and guidelines

In a perfect world where an SEO professional has as many team members as necessary for handmade meta descriptions and changes them across a sea of ​​pages by the fall of Google hat, all web pages should have meta descriptions.

However, we are all limited in time and must choose which tactics are worthwhile. It is important to reconsider whether these best practices are worth the investment.

That’s controversial, but true. If you do not want to rank with a page, meta descriptions are simply not effortlessly maintainable.

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It may be better for you to encourage Google to make descriptive snippets.

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