Google’s Martin Splitt tweeted that meta descriptions provide Google with a summary of what’s important about a page. This seems to extend what SEOs believed about meta description elements.

SEO and Meta Description Elements

Meta description HTML elements (also known as meta description tags) are generally understood to have limited SEO value. In the past, having duplicate meta description elements sitewide were said to have a negative ranking effect. In other words, the meta description could cause an SEO ranking effect.

Yet it was also understood that meta descriptions are not ranking factors.

So how to reconcile both of those observations about the SEO value of meta descriptions? How can something have a negative effect on rankings yet not be a ranking factor?

Martin Splitt offered an interesting statement about how Google uses meta descriptions.

He said that the meta description (along with the title element) provides Google with a top level summary of the web page.

Here is what he tweeted:

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“Well, they and the title are making up the first impression of what someone searching sees from your site and helps Google Search to get a short summary of what you consider important about the page.”

When asked for clarification, Martin restated what he had said:

What Martin seems to be saying is that the meta description element contributes to helping Google understand what a web page is about.

Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst, John Mueller, stepped in and offered that meta descriptions are not ranking factors.

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Mueller’s contribution to the discussion, that meta descriptions are not ranking factors aligns with what search marketing understood about meta descriptions.

It’s interesting that Mueller did not comment on meta descriptions having a role of providing a high  level summary of what a page is about, a role that is similar to the title element.

The title element has traditionally been seen as a ranking factor. Leaving aside whether that’s true today or not, the other role of a title element is to provide a description of what the web page is about.

What Martin Splitt seems to be saying is that the meta description element plays a similar role to the title tag as far as summarizing what a web page is about.

That’s different from what the search marketing community understands about the meta description element.

Has something changed, is Martin telling us something new?

Meta Descriptions Help Google Understand Content?

Martin Splitt has said in the past that he’s not involved in the ranking part of search. Which is a surprising statement from someone who is involved in Google’s SEO Myth Busting videos.

This is what he said in a JavaScript SEO video:

“I don’t really answer ranking questions because …I’m not working in the ranking part of things.”

Does Google search really use meta descriptions for understanding what a web page is about, similar to how Google uses a title element?

Martin explicitly stated in a tweet that meta descriptions help Google understand “what you care about in terms of content…

But John Mueller didn’t seem to confirm it though.

Watch Martin Splitt state that he’s not a part of the ranking part of search





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