Google’s John Mueller answered the question of whether a meta description can be used to influence search rankings.
This is a good question because Google advises using unique meta descriptions on web pages. So there is a kind of influence, but is this influence related to the rankings? John Mueller answers this question.
The meta tag is officially known as meta element. The meta element is used to describe (represent) document-level information on a web page.
In order to describe different properties of the web page, the meta element (like all HTML elements) has attributes that somehow extend the meta element so that it can provide a specific type of information to a web browser or to a web crawler (like Googlebot).
- A meta robots tag communicates with crawlers.
- A meta refresh tag communicates with a browser.
There are many other meta tags that communicate directly with search engines and browsers:
- meta name=”viewport”
- meta http-equiv=”refresh”
- meta name=”google-site-verification”
- meta name=”googlebot” content=”notranslate”
Meta data is information that is not intended for site visitors to see directly (although it may be seen indirectly through search results).
The W3C is the standards body responsible for defining HTML (among other things)
The official W3C Specification for Meta Description indicates that the meta description is designed for use by search engines.
“The value must be a free-form string that describes the page. The value should be appropriate for use in a page directory, for example in a search engine.
There should be no more than one meta element with its name attribute set to description per document.
Use of meta descriptions by Google
from google the snippets documentation notes that meta descriptions are used to generate search result snippets.
If a meta description is used correctly, the meta description displayed in the search results will communicate to the potential website visitor what the page is about and give them an idea of what to expect if they click on the link and visit the website.
There is no limit to the length of a meta description.
However, there is a limit to the amount of meta description search engines will choose to display. The limit is defined by the quantity that can be displayed on the user’s browser.
Does Google use meta description for ranking?
The person asking the question was specifically asking to add location name information to the meta description and if that would help rankings.
Google’s John Mueller answered with a broader scope than just adding the location name, his answer was whether something in the meta description affected rankings.
This is the question asked:
“Does adding the location name in the meta description matter to Google in terms of ranking if content quality is maintained?”
Jean Mueller replied:
“So the meta description is mostly used as a snippet in the search results page.
And it’s not something we would use for ranking.
But obviously having a good snippet on a search results page can make it more interesting for people to visit your page when they see your page ranking in the search results.
Meta description and SEO
There is a lot to know about HTML meta elements and this question is a good example of the value of understanding HTML and how they are used by browsers and search engines.
Understanding the basic information about meta elements and the meta description tag in particular helps to better understand how all the pieces fit together for SEO.
Is the meta description important for rankings?
Watch John Mueller answer the question at 26:47 in the video: