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SEO Myth #1: Keywords In Your Meta Description Will Help You Rank Better

In a world where information spreads like wildfire on the web, false information on the net can be stubborn to squash. In the next couple of weeks, we're going to debunk some SEO myths that simply won't die. And they need to! We're calling it "SEO Myths That Need To Die In 2017" series.

Here goes!

Myth #1: Keywords In Your Meta Description Will Help You Rank Better.

No, NO , NOOO! They won't. Keywords in meta descriptions are not a ranking factor.

Google announced in September of 2009, (yes, that's 7 years ago!!!) that neither meta descriptions nor meta keywords factor into Google's ranking algorithms for web search. Google uses meta descriptions to return results that match meta tag content, as well as to pull a preview snippet on search result pages, but it's important to note that meta descriptions do not to influence Google's ranking algorithms.1

And yet almost every 'how-to' and 'SEO optimization' posts tell you to add your keywords in the meta description. To make things worse, it's common to see the same advice when you run your website through SEO site graders. Giving you that one red 'x' that keeps you from that perfect score, just shy of getting that neatly optimized page. No wonder this Myth hasn't died.

Does this mean I shouldn't use keywords in my meta description?

Hmm, well, not exactly. Adding relevant keywords to your meta description has the benefit of being highlighted in bold text, drawing the attention of the user to your description.

Adding keywords in your meta description is not a ranking factor, but it does promote better click through rates.

In fact, if you are going to write a meta description, that should be your focus. How do I encourage the user to click through to my site versus a competitors site?

It's easier said than done. How you phrase your descriptions can make or break whether someone clicks to your site or passes you by. Writing meta descriptions is an art on its own. Considering testing different variations of meta descriptions to see if you can get a lift in click-throughs.

Sometimes It Is Okay To Not Write Meta Descriptions.

WHAAAT?  Yes, and here's why. Although conventional logic would hold that it's universally wiser to write a good meta description, rather than let the engines scrape a given web page, this isn't always the case. It can sometimes be better to let the engines extract the relevant text, themselves. The reason is simple: When engines pull, they always display the keywords and surrounding phrases that the user has searched for. If a webmaster forces a meta description, they can detract from the relevance the engines make naturally. In some cases, they'll overrule the meta description anyway, but a webmaster can not always rely on the engines to use the most relevant text in the SERP.

But Not If You Anticipate Social Sharing...

When choosing whether or not to add a meta description, consider that social sharing sites like Facebook commonly use a page's description tag when the page is shared on their sites. Without the meta description tag, social sharing sites use the first text they can find. Depending on what that is, this might not create a good user experience for users encountering your content.

Stay tuned for the next post in this series: SEO Myth #2: SEO is all about the right keywords.


1. "Meta Description Tag - Learn SEO - Moz." N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Sep. 2016