To SEO META Descriptions or Not to SEO META Descriptions - that is the question.
Up to this point in time, adding meta titles and meta description tags to websites has always been accepted as one of the most crucial on-site pieces of search engine optimization (SEO) for websites. META Description tags are literally one of the first things a search engine optimization professional (or someone trying to sell you SEO services) looks for when auditing a website. They're easy to spot and easy to check off the list if they're already present or add if they're missing. Everyone is doing them.
But, wait… what if META descriptions don't matter - or worse, are working negatively against your website? Like, what if all your META descriptions are wrong. What if you don't know the type of people who are using your website as well as you think you do? What if your accidental ignorance (or unsubstantiated over confidence) is holding you back from maxing out the Google-page-one search results rankings you ought to be championing?
All I'm saying is that there's a chance - custom META tags may not be the best thing since sliced bread, after all.
SEO Case Study
There is a really interesting case study about SEO and your website's META Descriptions by a search engine marketing company called SearchPilot.
SearchPilot A/B tested META Description tags. In one scenario, they tested forcing Google to use the text from the META Description tags. In the other scenario, they let Google do Google's thing and pick their own. The results may surprise you.
According to the article, approximately 70% of Google's search results have a snippet of text that __does not__ come from the specified META Description tag's hand-written content. Instead, Google's dynamically choosing descriptive text that's (presumably) more aligned with a user's search query, and thus, is more relevant (helps you rank better, get more visibility, and increase click-through-rates)..
Forcing Google to use specified META Description text is an option, as discussed in the A/B test. However, the outcome from the SEO experiment showed that forcing META tag use resulted in a drop in organic traffic and search rank. That's not ideal.
Interpreting the Results
Let's assume that the results from SearchPilot's A/B testing of SEO META Description tags is standard operating procedure for Google (and the infamous “algorithm” behind SERPs).
The takeaway for content and search engine marketing strategists simple. Spend more time creating better content and spend less time (or no time) keying in unique META descriptions for each and every page on a website - because Google doesn't care what you think is best for Google's customers if it's not aligned with Google's view of what is best for Google's customers (i.e. people searching for stuff on Google).
To me, the choice is clear. Either play the game Google's way or risk not being allowed to play at all.
Foregoing standard SEO practices might seem a little whacky at first, but in the grand scheme of things Google might be making a business decision that will result in long-term savings of both your time and your dollar bills.
Google's going to do what Google wants to do - we're all just along for the ride - and the best thing to do is buckle-in and stay up to speed.
Click here to view the case study: SEO Split-Testing Lessons from SearchPilot: Forcing Google to Respect Meta Descriptions