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SEO Strategy in 2019: Do Meta Descriptions Have a Place in It?

Amanda KoehlerAmanda Koehler/Digital Marketing Lead
January 24, 20193 min read

For years, SEO strategy included spending hours and hours optimizing page titles and meta descriptions only to have Google re-write them on search engine results pages. Google constantly changes and experiments with the presentation of search results, so SEO practitioners must constantly modify SEO strategy, which has typically meant updating the length and content of meta descriptions.

Enough of that.

The fact is, constantly changing meta descriptions does not improve the SEO of a website. Your SEO strategy for 2019 should not include wasting too much time on meta descriptions.

The Case for Ignoring Meta Descriptions

Google Rewrites Your Meta Descriptions

Why knock yourself out writing or changing meta descriptions based on Google’s latest version of search results? Google usually ignores your meta descriptions anyway.

In two-thirds of cases in a Yoast study, Google replaced specific, user-generated meta descriptions with words pulled from the first paragraph of the content.

Static Meta Descriptions Lead to Fewer Clicks

When a search keyword is visible in the meta description, the searcher is more likely to click through the SERP result to the content. If you have a static meta description on your page, and Google always displays it, the actual keyword may or may not appear in the meta description.

Allowing Google to dynamically create a meta description based on the query makes the keyword’s appearance in the meta description more likely. The keyword makes your listing more prominent, and more clicks result. Plus, Google usually bolds the relevant search query for you, and this helps you connect with the searcher.

Not all pages are created equal

Many pages on your website mean nothing for SEO. Why waste time creating meta descriptions if you don’t care about the page’s Google ranking? You simply do not need a meta description on every page. For example, don’t waste your time writing a meta description for your 404 page, or a page that only includes copyright information. Only pages that are valuable for SEO should have meta descriptions.

Voice Search

The more people move to voice search, the more obsolete meta descriptions become.

When Should I Write Meta Descriptions?

Even though you should not commit hours and hours to meta descriptions, covering at least the most important pages on your website remains good practice.

Product Pages

If you aimed your website at selling products, sales pages are your most important pages. Polish their meta descriptions. If you have hundreds or thousands of products, start with the pages that are most important for sales or that have the highest SEO rankings. Spending a little time to optimize your meta descriptions on these pages makes sense.

Home Page

Home pages often exist mostly for navigation and convey little or no in-depth content. If Google strips content from your home page to generate the meta description, it might fail to properly represent your brand the way you want.

The home page meta description is all about controlling your brand message. What do you want people to know about your company when they see your SERP listing? Write a clear and concise brand message for your home page meta description.

Well-Ranking Blog Posts

Do you have thousands of old blog posts that never had meta descriptions? Don’t bother to dive in and create a good one for each. Instead, focus on those that are already succeeding on Google. Look at the top 10 percent of your best- ranked blog posts and start there.

On the other hand, fresh meta descriptions for a poor performer will not guarantee a jump to number 1 on Google Search -- despite what some SEO practitioners say.

What Should my SEO Strategy Include in 2019?

SEO in 2019 should focus on developing useful, unique content. This is the heart of your website and the most critical piece for your SEO Strategy. Google’s machine learning tools are already scanning your content and dynamically creating meta descriptions – so give Google the best content to summarize. A sound SEO strategy in 2019 is all about developing a content strategy based on search intent.

Step 1: Identify Keywords for Your SEO Strategy

Start by thinking about the keywords you want to rank for. What do users hope to accomplish with those keywords? To find your business on a map? Buy a product online? Get information?

Break your keywords down by search intent:

  • Transactional keywords aim at a transaction or exchange, such as purchasing a product.
  • Navigational keywords aim at finding a specific product, brand or service. This includes looking for the location of a company, service, etc.
  • Informational keywords indicate that a user seeks more information about a product, brand or service. These searchers are likely in the information gathering phase of the buying journey.

Step 2: Base Your SEO strategy on Keyword Search Intent

Once you determine the type of queries you want to pursue, develop a strategy to target these keywords.

To target transactional keywords, think about your product page content. What content indicates that you sell the best product in the market? Go after reviews and testimonials. Include detailed product specifications and supporting documentation. Consider a digital advertising strategy to drive people to your product pages. Google search for transactional keywords is a pay-to-play game these days.

To target navigational keywords, think about your local SEO. Have you optimized your Google My Business listing? Is your business listed on local directories? Do you have positive Google reviews? Look also at your social media strategy – is your company on Facebook? Are you getting Facebook reviews?

To target informational keywords, dive deep into content generation. Identify the questions you want to answer with your content, look at Google results pages to determine what content is in the Zero Position, and structure your content in such a way that Google will see it as deserving the top spot.

Step 3: Optimize Content & Meta Data

OK, write some meta descriptions. Yes, I know – I just told you not to waste your time on them. But once you have created the best content for your website, turn your attention back to the basics of SEO and optimize meta descriptions for your key pages.

Conclusion

In 2019, don’t waste time worrying about what Google has done to your search results and meta descriptions. Don’t spend hours optimizing for 160 characters when they could easily change it to 300 again.

Instead, focus your SEO strategy on content, on developing the words on the page. This will improve your SEO health far more than writing meta descriptions, and your strong content will better serve your users. Success ultimately rests on a great user experience. Give them what they need. Give them what they want.

Amanda KoehlerAmanda Koehler/Digital Marketing Lead

Amanda Koehler is certified in Google Analytics and Google AdWords.  As our digital marketing lead, she focuses on creating marketing strategies for customers like Wildeck, Heartland Advisors,  Curative Care, Snap-on and many others. Through research and data analytics, Amanda helps clients meet their digital marketing goals.

Connect with Amanda on Twitter | Connect with Amanda on LinkedIn | Read Amanda Koehler's Blogs

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