Does filling out HTML meta description/keyword tags matter for SEO?

+7  A: 

Google will use meta tags, but the description, to better summarize your site. They won't help to increase your page rank.


EDIT: @Petr, are you sure that meta tags influence page rank? I am pretty sure that they don't, but if you have some references, I'd love to learn more about this. I have seen this, from the Official Google Webmaster Central Blog, which is what leads me to believe that they don't:

Even though we sometimes use the description meta tag for the snippets we show, we still don't use the description meta tag in our ranking.

It can increase page rank as a secondary effect.
Petr Peller
@Petr, would you care to elaborate? I have edited my answer with more information as to why I thought that was not true.
@pkaeding: I think he means that if you put a good description users are more likely to click. People clicking your link **does** increase your page rank, because it tells google people are interested. As a **very indirect** effect the person who clicked only because of your great description may link to your website from theirs, therefore increasing your page rank even more.
Andreas Bonini

Those are two of the things that are used by search engines. The exact weight of each changes frequently, they are generally regarded; however, as being fairly important.

One thing to note, care should be taken when entering values. The more relevant the keywords and description are to the textual content of the site, the more weight may be given to them. Of course there are no guarantees as nobody outside of the search engine companies really know what algorithms are being used.

This post talks a bit more about some aspects.

+6  A: 

This article has some info on it.

A quick summary is:

Google and Microsoft: No

Yahoo and Ask: Yes

The "description" meta information is used by Google when describing your site, so its not completely pointless.
Lachlan McDonald
Doesn't the description meta used when no DMOZ description (or explicity specified) is available ?!
Boris Guéry
+1  A: 

Keywords: Useless

All major search engines don't use them at all.

Description: Useful!

Replaces the default text in search engines if there isn't anything better. Use this to describe the page properly. Not perhaps useful for SEO, but it makes your results look more useful, and will hopefully increase click through rates by users.

Rich Bradshaw

If your pages are part of an intranet then both the keywords and description meta tags can be very useful. If you have access to the search engine crawling your pages (and thus you can specifically look for sepcific tags/markup), they can add tremendous value without costing you too much time and are easy to change.

For pages outside of an intranet, you may have less success with keywords for reasons mentioned above.

Zack Mulgrew

The problem with keyword meta tags is they are a completely unreliable source of information for search engines. The temptation for people to alter search results in their favour with misleading keywords is just too great.

+1  A: 

If you want your users to share your content on Facebook, the meta tags actually come in handy, as Facebook will use this information when styling the post.

See Facebook Share Partners for more information.

Edit; whoops, wrong url. Fixed.

Lachlan McDonald