Search snippets: Google no longer uses meta-descriptions

Google has recently updated its documentation on search snippets, stating that meta-descriptions are no longer relevant. Let's explore the details.

Search snippets: Google no longer uses meta-descriptions

Google has recently updated its documentation on search snippets, highlighting the increased importance of page content in determining which snippets are displayed in search results, rather than meta descriptions.

Key takeaways

  • Google makes it clear that page content is now the primary source for the creation of search snippets.
  • Meta descriptions are no longer considered the primary source of snippets, but are still useful if they describe the page better than the content itself.
  • Inserting keywords into meta-descriptions for SEO purposes is an outdated practice.

The new face of search snippets

Google has updated its documentation to clarify what influences the algorithm in choosing what to display in snippets (the few sentences describing the web page's subject under the title). This tells us that page content is the main source of snippets in search results. 

This update moves away from the practice of privileging meta-descriptions as the main source of extracts. For some time now, it has been noticeable that Google no longer systematically selects the meta-description provided, but instead chooses the page excerpt it considers most relevant.

The official Google Search Central documentation states: 

"Clarify the main source of extracts 

What: our extract documentation specifies that the main source of the extract is the content of the page itself.

Why: the previous wording incorrectly implied that structured data and the HTML meta-description element are the main sources of code snippets."

SEO implications

This development calls into question traditional SEO strategies, which still often advised using meta-descriptions as an advertising tool, by including keywords and making the surfer want to click on this result (the meta-description has, as a reminder, no impact on natural referencing). 

Google now recommends meta-descriptions that provide a precise, concise summary of the page's content. Even so, this doesn't mean it will use them as the basis for its search extract.

Here's what the documentation now says: 

"Code snippets are primarily created from the content of the page itself. However, Google sometimes uses the HTML meta description element if it can give users a more accurate description of the page than the content extracted directly from the page."

“Google will sometimes use the <meta name=”description”> tag from a page to generate a snippet in search results, if we think it gives users a more accurate description than would be possible purely from the on-page content. A meta description tag generally informs and interests users with a short, relevant summary of what a particular page is about.”

Google then describes the content of a meta description using a simile that compares it to promoting something in the form of a pitch:

“They are like a pitch that convince the user that the page is exactly what they’re looking for.”

The end of meta descriptions as an advertising tool

Gone are the days of using meta descriptions to attract attention in search results. Google now favors descriptions that accurately reflect the content of the page.

This update underlines the importance of content quality and relevance. Website owners need to concentrate on creating content that responds directly to user queries, and not focus on optimizing meta-descriptions.