Much like purchasing books, users searching on Google like to read a little of what they’re getting themselves into before making a commitment. Search result snippets give users a preview of the page they are about to click through to and help them decide whether it is relevant to what they are searching for or not, and whether they should invest their time in visiting the page. By ensuring that your snippet is descriptive, relevant and accurate, you are more likely to have users click through and be content with the page they are presented with.
Originally, snippets were derived from:
1) Content of the page
2) Meta description
3) DMOZ listings
The page content is generally most relevant to the user’s search query and is therefore the best place to extract snippet content. However, in some cases the page content isn’t the best place to generate the snippet from. In these cases, the meta description is a good fallback.
There are also times when both the page content and the meta description aren’t sufficient sources for generating a snippet. Historically when this occurred, Google used DMOZ (AKA The Open Directory Project) snippets as a replacement, as they were generally of a higher quality than webmaster-generated meta descriptions.
With the closure of DMOZ, however, Google is back to utilising meta descriptions as a source of generating search result snippets.
What makes a good meta description?
Efficient meta descriptions contain a short and accurate blurb of what your page contains. Their aim is to offer the user an insight into what the page is about and show whether they are relevant to what they are searching for. It’s important that both your desktop and your mobile pages have a meta description.
It is commonplace for webmasters to overlook meta descriptions, or even use the same description across multiple pages. Google will ignore meta descriptions that are off-topic, low in quality or contain keyword stuffing, so it is important to create unique and accurate descriptions that offer the best user experience possible.