When should you add Meta Descriptions?

September 7, 2018

Search engine optimization tools still have a high regard for meta descriptions. If you scan the pages of your website with any SEO tool, it will likely tell you whether your meta descriptions are present or not. If the meta descriptions are not there, this is supposed to be bad for the SEO of your website. So, does this mean every page on your website needs to have a meta description? Not necessarily.

The Top 5 Reasons to Avoid Meta Descriptions

#1) The Google algorithm is frequently being updated.

Google used to have a meta description character limit of between 150 and 165. That changed last December when they increased the limit to 275 characters. This was a sudden change that Google made without announcing it first. As a result, many previously optimized web pages were no longer optimized. Webmasters quickly rushed to re-optimize their web pages to conform to the character limit increase. But then, Google went back to the short character limit within 6 months after that. In hindsight, if these webmasters had just left out their meta descriptions altogether instead of rushing to write longer ones, then it would have been better for their SEO.

#2) There are limited resources in every organization.

Meta description tags used to be a huge factor in how Google ranked web pages. Now, even Google admits that these tags do very little to influence the ranking of a page. The reason that Google continues to recommend that webmasters use meta description tags is for the snippets on the search results pages. They help searchers figure out which a particular website is all about without having to click on it. Many organizations have limited resources. This makes it hard for them to keep accurate meta descriptions for every one of their web pages. Since they are not that important anymore for search engine ranking, why focus all your energy on it? You should be selective in where you focus on the meta descriptions, like on the home page and other important web pages only.

#3) Google Creates a Description Snippet for You

Whether you have a meta description or not, Google will usually take a portion of your webpage’s content and use that for the description snippet. It will likely be the first paragraph of content on the webpage. If that accurately describes the webpage, then you don’t even need to worry about meta descriptions ever again.

#4) Google’s Description Snippet Creations Are Better

The words used in your description snippet will determine whether a person clicks on your website link or not. When you let Google generate the description snippet for you, it is more likely to show the on-page content which has the keywords that the person used in their search. This is better than relying on a fixed meta description tag which may not have those keywords in it.

#5) SEO Does Not Equally Affect Pages

Big websites can have up to millions of web pages. There is no sense in trying to set up meta description tags for each one of these web pages because it won’t make a difference. You only need to have the meta description tags on the web pages which need them the most. This differentiates the pages on your website in the eyes of Google. That is a good thing.

The Top 4 Situations to Use Meta Descriptions

#1) Pages for Products and Categories

If you run an e-commerce website which sells products on various categorized pages, then you will want your category pages and product pages to have good meta descriptions.

#2) Focus on the Popular Content

Examine which of your web pages have the most traffic. These are the ones you will want to focus on the most. If you have 100 pages and only 5 of them get a lot of visitors, then all your SEO efforts should be focused on fine-tuning the meta descriptions of those 5 pages. You will never be able to boost up the rank of older content unless you can change it entirely.

#3) Use Meta Descriptions on Pages with Very Little Text Content

The most important webpage of your website is the homepage. This is the page which must have the best meta description. Not only is it the introduction to your website, but it may also contain more images and video content too. If there is not enough on-page text content for Google to use as a snippet, then it will need to use your meta description tag instead. So, make sure you have one already in place for the homepage. The same concept also applies to any other webpage which has more images and videos than text.

#4) Understand When to Let Google Generate Description Snippets

If you have thousands or even millions of pages to your website, you are never going to be able to add unique meta descriptions to all of them. There just isn’t enough time. The best thing you can do is let Google generate the description snippets for you. Meanwhile, you need to understand the best SEO practices to take regarding your meta descriptions. That way, you will know which pages to focus your personal attention to the most for better traffic.

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