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Does the Description Meta Tag Still Matter?

October 20, 2009

I’ve been closely following my rank in Google for the exact keyword phrase of the name of a domain I recently developed. (where the exact keyword phrase is = to the exact keywords composing the domain)

The keywords/domain I am trying to rank for has an average competition.  Using a tool found at SEOLogs.com it ranks as “Keyword Difficulty = 51 out of 100

After first breaking into the top 50 Google results, I watched the website’s position climb up into page 3 to crest at the 29th search result.

Around this time I updated the homepage content with an article I copped from an article marketing site, really a no-no since it is duplicate content.  (This is only temporary however as I will be updating it again with fresh new content later this week.)

Concurrently, I realized at that time that in the meta name = “description” tag, I had written a description that did not even include the keyword phrase I was trying to rank for! (Doh!)  I immediately updated this tag so the exact keyword phrase was at the begginning of the the description, and again repeated two of the three keywords near the middle.

Over the last two to three weeks while I waited (quite impatiently) for the site’s description to reflect the update, I’ve watched the rank slowly slip all the way down to page six.  Then just today, when I checked the ranking, not only was I pleased that the new meta description was finally showing in the search results, but the site had shot all the way back up into page 3 of the results, again at position #29.

google-search-results-udl.gif

The only two changes that took place were:  First, the addition of a single blog post.  However the blog is on a sub-page of the site and not on the homepage.  Therefore I wouldn’t consider it having that significant of an impact on the ranking of the homepage itself since it does not update any of the homepage’s content.

The second was the addition of about 5 new backlinks that trickled in from directory submissions.  However, as the site was still sliding backwards in rank during this time I cannot attribute the postitive uptick to these.

For this reason, despite the recent confirmation from Google that the keywords meta tag is not used to determine rankings, and despite what some others may claim, I am still not convinced, based on my experience, that the description tag has zero relevance to rankings.

Although Matt Cutts seemed to have intimated otherwise in his post, I am more apt to believe:  #1 – my own experience; and #2 – what Google says and what Google does may be two different things.  As I believe I have shown, in my case, the description tag did seem to have played a significant role.

Still, I do not want to claim gospel here.  If you disagree, I welcome you to drop a comment explaining what other reason may have accounted for the sudden leap from page six to page three coinciding perfectly in time with the change in my site description.

On a final note: while the first page search results for the keyword term are currently occupied by (in order):

  • dir.yahoo.com
  • eight .edu domains
  • one premium .com generic domain

… it is only a matter of time (not long) before I will break my site into the top ten.  Once I can level the other factors between my site and those now above it, the primacy of the domain-equals-keyword correlative will kick in as the deciding factor..

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