I use meta descriptions. I like to have some control over that message, even if Google decides to use a snippet of content from the page instead some of the time. Heck, I even still use meta keywords, even though they have been dead for awhile, and even the zombies were recently put to rest. I use them to guide copywriting and future on-page optimization. It keeps me focused.
But despite me being old-school like that, I found a good reason today to consider scrapping your meta descriptions. As Andrew pointed out in this post about Google Instant Previews, having a snippet called out in the preview image could really improve CTR if you do it right. For instance, a nice, full-sentence call-to-action could be very compelling like that. It’s the same tactic that magazines have used for many years, called a Pull Quote. Bloggers use them too.
But here’s the problem: If Google uses your meta description in the SERP, they’re not giving you a pull quote in the preview. It’s strange, and probably a glitch that will get fixed, but for now it is giving an advantage (CTR-wise probably) to pages that have meta descriptions that don’t match the query, or no meta description at all. Do some searches yourself (if you’re getting the preview magnifying glass beside each result) and you’ll notice a pattern. See the two screenshots below…
PS: The above screenshot is just a result for “Aliens Suck”. It was the first random query that came to mind when I wanted to find an example to show. I am not trying to get a discussion going about “illegal aliens” as shown in the second screenshot. #justsayin.