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January 21, 2010

Your Meta Descriptions Now Affect Your Google Rankings Again

Meta descriptions (the text snippets of the webpage you see in search results) used to be an important ranking factor. Until not too long ago both Google and Yahoo! officially announced they no longer used Meta-descriptions in their search algorithms. But recent developments in Google’s search algo bring Meta description back to life as a ranking factor.

No, Google did not back out of their decision to discount Meta descriptions as a ranking factor. However your site’s search snippet can now significantly affect your rankings. Here’s the deal.

Google and Personalized Search

Early this month Google announced that they would be tailoring everyone’s search results based on their search history even when users are not signed into Google. Personalized results are nothing new on Google. The search giant has been customizing peoples SERPs (search engine results pages) for quite a while already, but until now it only happened when you searched while signed into your Google account. Today, signed in or not everyone gets personal results.

Here’s How It Works

Whether you’re signed in or not, all the searches you run on Google are stored in your browser cookies. This data is referred to as your ‘Web History’ and Google uses it to customize your search results. If you’re not signed in, your Web History is stored for 180 days, then old data is replaced with new searches. If you’re signed in, there’s no time limit and you can manage you Web History. Either way the searches you run and sites you visit will affect your future search experience.

The sites you visit more often will be pushed higher in the search results on related queries. For example if you search for ‘cat food’ and visit www.petfood.com, next time when you search for ‘dog food’ you may see www.petfood.com in top 10 results even if it doesn’t rank there in the general impersonalized search. You can tell that your search results have been personalized by the ‘View customization’ link in the upper right hand corner.

The personalized search results can differ significantly from the general SERPs. I ran a couple of tests searching for related keywords and clicking the same site each time. I also checked this site’s rankings with a rank checker to get a list of impersonalized rankings. In one of the tests a few click-throughs to a site pushed it 26 positions up on a highly competitive keyword. That is from the 31 position on page 4 straight to the 5th spot on the first page in personalized search results (I was signed out).

How Meta Descriptions Can Affect Your Google Rankings

Although Meta descriptions are no longer part of the ranking algorithm they can affect your site’s positions in the personalized search results. Your Meta description is a crucial factor that determines the CTR (click-through-rate) of your site in search results. The more compelling your description is, the more searchers will click it. When they click through to your site from search results this is recorded in their Web History. Next time they search for a product or service related to your site, it may appear high up in their personalized search results.

Since everyone now gets personalized results, the scope of the effect your Meta descriptions have on your rankings can get really huge. That’s another reason why you should invest some time into testing and optimizing your Meta descriptions.

Meta Description Optimization

There’s plenty of advice out there on writing compelling titles and descriptions, so I won’t go there. Just keep in mind one thing. Google doesn’t always show the Meta description you provide. Sometimes it just compiles a random text snippet from your page that contains the keywords used in the query. But you can easily locate the keywords where your own Meta description shows up by searching for them on Google.

In Conclusion

There’s been a lot of criticism coming down on Google for introducing personal search to everyone. Some people are worried about privacy issues. Others don’t like it because the whole concept will help the rich get richer and keep the small guy out of the game. And some SEOs are just whining that this makes SEO success harder to measure.

Although I don’t think it is the best idea Google had either, I prefer to embrace it and run with it. And I suggest that you take this news as a call to action. A strong motivation to actually do something that’s going to help your SEO, your sales and your business. And that is to take a look at your Meta descriptions. Go and see how your website appears in the search results and find ways to improve it. With personalized search or without it, having a catchy compelling text in your search results snippet will get you more clicks, more traffic and more customers.


Richard Gilmore – Rank Tracker (http://www.link-assistant.com/rank-tracker) by Link-Assistant.Com when writing this article. You may also want to check out these SEO tools (http://www.link-assistant.com/) to get more productive with your SEO.

29 Responses to “Your Meta Descriptions Now Affect Your Google Rankings Again

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    avatar Roy says:

    A very interesting and informative article.

    Thanks.

    avatar Blog Tactic says:

    There is always a reason was META tag was used in the first place.

    avatar next generation says:

    nice article on meta consideration.

    avatar Craig says:

    Being fairly new to web site ownership ( couple years ) I guess my training was old school so I had done extensive research on the meta tags I used in both my sites. I am seeing incredible results from the Meta Tags I have chosen.

    Excellent Information Thank You For Your Article

    avatar Kyle Kight says:

    Remember, if you don’t login into Google, and Google never stores browser cookies to help analyze traffic data, they still can analyze your Google Analytics data to control or determin rankings. It’s free for a reason.

    avatar ARTiSAN says:

    Good article. Try using the more successful ad text from your PPC campaigns as a basis when writing the meta descriptions.

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    avatar meta descriptions affect google rankings again | Adult Webmaster says:

    […] meta descriptions affect google rankings again/ […]

    Thank you for this great article, i already notice this change and you just confirm it, so good, thanks again.

    avatar Article Online says:

    Thanks Richard. This information is very useful for every webmaster. It is helpful for both new and already established websites.

    avatar Terry says:

    Meta description has always been important, it is easy to get on first page for most keywords and generally we all know how to do that, but even being on first page you still only have a 1 to 2 in 10 chance of being clicked, if your site comes up with your meta description showing and you spent 10 seconds doing it, you may well be in the number 1 spot, but people are not going to be clicking you, well worth thinking and making your meta description interesting and relevent.

    avatar Jimmy R Williams says:

    In our office we were just discussing the importance of keywords and Meta Descriptions with a client. Then we went to good ole Google and found this article to back up what we were saying, thanks.

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    avatar Bill Platt says:

    Yes, meta descriptions are important for your presentation to google users, but this is not new… For at least the last year, Google has been showing meta descriptions when the queried keywords are not on the page presented in google’s listings.

    avatar Kenneth Fach says:

    Just when I thought we heard the last of meta tags. Your post is very informative, and good. Thanks!

    avatar Allen Web Design says:

    This is great article. I was confused that why my site is getting traffic from a specific city for a keyword.
    Thank you for information.

    avatar Loren Howard says:

    Meta Description is an important part of Google Result and as it is responsible for helping visitors read and understand about the company and click, it should influence the search results too.

    avatar Jamil Ali says:

    Excellent informative article about Meta Descriptions and its effect on Google Rankings.thanks for sharing

    avatar white pages says:

    thanks for the google news…

    avatar Sikat ang Pinoy says:

    This is a good news!

    avatar Paul TN says:

    Thanks for some great information. I’ve been working on launching a couple new sites and this could be part of the changes I was missing.

    avatar Netsearch says:

    It’s nice to listen that meta description matter again in web site ranking in major SE.I am about to air my site keeping with effective meta description.

    Thanks

    avatar SEO Text Links says:

    Yes, I think with search engines trying to make changes and rank more relevant sites more effectively we’re seeing a number of changes, one being meta descriptions coming back into play. And then of course real-time results, social prowess and more. 2010-12 will be interesting to watch!

    avatar azeem uddin says:

    Very informative article and I will apply it on my word press based website
    http://www.insideweightloss.com ? Can I
    apply it on word press websites ?

    avatar Pat veds says:

    if you have like 25,000 pages should you worry about having meta for all pages, or just some.

    thanks
    Pat

    avatar SHAREit PC says:

    And I am the one to the best thing to be the nice and great process also to the best guys here working is nice too.

    And the best thing is that we are going to do the work in the best possible way man.

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