Meta descriptions aren’t a ranking factor, but they can entice more clicks—and that leads to more traffic. That said, you’ve probably noticed that Google doesn’t always use the hardcoded meta description. It sometimes chooses a different snippet from the page. If you’ve spent time crafting an enticing meta description, this can be annoying. But how often does it happen? To find out, we compared hardcoded meta descriptions with the actual Google desktop snippets for 20,000 keywords. We hypothesized that Google would generate descriptions more often for long-tail keywords.
This was based on
The fact that the average first-page result ranks for hundreds of keywords, and the hardcoded descriptions are usually written around the primary “head” keyword. For example, our primary executive data target keyword for this post is “youtube keyword tools”—so we wrote the meta description with that in mind. As a result, Google shows our hardcoded description in the results for the target keyword… The results here are pretty much equal. Google rewrote 61.46% of meta descriptions that were too long and 63.69% of the rest. Surprisingly, it seems that keeping your meta descriptions within limits doesn’t change the probability of Google rewriting them much.
How Often Does because
Long descriptions are surprisingly common. 40.61% of 192,656 unique pages’ descriptions we studied were too long. Relevant and compelling meta descriptions entice Email Lists clicks, so they’re still worth writing—even though they’re only shown only 37% of the time, on average. That said, if your site is huge, it pays to prioritize pages that: Already get organic traffic Were created to rank in Google Are likely to get shared on social media (where the meta description will be used for the social snippet description in the absence of OG tags) Taking this approach should have the most impact for the least amount of work.
Ping me on Twitter if you have any comments. My guess is that the gap will grow over time as Google gets better at understanding search intent and subsequently providing the most relevant search snippets. This happens because the hardcoded description is less relevant for the long-tails. It makes more sense for Google to choose its own snippet.