Before we even delve into the relationship between meta description tags and SEO, I think it’s fairly important to note that, in a technical sense, the former has no influence on the latter. So no, inserting keywords into a meta description won’t boost your SEO in the slightest, as Google was certain to point out in 2009.
But that isn’t to say meta descriptions don’t play a rather important role within SEO in a holistic sense.
First, however, let’s start with the basics and answer the question: what is a meta description?
An HTML attribute, meta description tags are a means to summarize the information/content held on a specific web page. Most commonly, these 150-160 character summarizations are used on search engine result pages (SERPs), providing users with contextual information on the links provided in a search.
Now, that’s where meta descriptions come into importance, because while the meta description may not help your page rank higher on a SERP, it can definitely prompt users to click on your site over another. And that is the main goal of SEO, after all.
For example, let’s say a user plugged in “best Toronto barber shops” into a Google search. A piece of content on your website (which for the sake of this scenario is dedicated to hairstyling and products) is the third result on the page, with the top three sharing very similar titles.
The first two results, however, lack a meta description, and the text right below the title is simply “scraped” by the search engine and will likely be the first paragraph or the area of the text where the keyword is found. Either way, the given description probably won’t provide any relevant information.
Your page, however, is equipped with a meta description and reads “A detailed rundown of Toronto’s best barber shops based on experience and price.”
To a random user scanning the initial results, your website immediately seems more concise, relevant, and useful. As such, they click on your link, bypassing the other two.
With that, you can see where meta descriptions come into use, and how you should write them. Since keywords in a meta description don’t really add to SEO, you should put the user first in every way, and provide information on what they want and why they should be clicking on your page. Essentially, entice them with your meta description, without being click-bait-y, of course.
Meta descriptions also play a key role in social shares. Many social media sites automatically utilize meta descriptions when it’s shared on their network.
At times however, specifically when users search complex queries with many words, a search engine will scrape your page for you and offer a meta description on a SERP relevant to the unique search.
But in general, meta descriptions are a key tool to use in SEO practices, one you shouldn’t neglect or forget. Contact a professional SEO agency today for more info on the best practices of SEO and how it can benefit your business.