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Google Offers Suggestions For Avoiding Meta Description Rewrites

Google’s John Mueller recently offered suggestions to help ensure the meta description you provide is what’s used in search results.

These suggestions were given in a Google Webmaster Central hangout after a question was asked Search Engine Journal’s Vahan Petrosyan.

He asked for Mueller’s best recommendations for preventing Google from rewriting a web page’s meta description tag.

Google doesn’t always use the meta description provided by a web page, and Mueller goes into the reasons why that is.

Then Mueller discusses the things site owners can do to lead Google toward using the intended meta description.

Why Does Google Rewrite Meta Descriptions?

It’s not uncommon for Google to generate a meta description to display in place of the one provided by a web page.

Mueller lists the most likely reasons why this would occur:

  • The meta description is not relevant or useful (ie, just a collection of keywords).
  • The exact same meta description is provided across a large number of pages.
  • The meta description doesn’t match what the user is searching for, but other content on the page does.

In general, Google rewrites meta descriptions to better help users understand why a particular page is relevant to what they searched for.

Sometimes it’s out of the site owner’s hands altogether.

There’s no way of getting Google to use the meta description you provide 100% of the time.

But there are things you can do to have Google display your intended meta description more often than not.

Getting Google to Use Your Meta Description

Mueller says there’s a high chance of Google using your provided meta descriptions if they meet this criteria:

  • Unique meta descriptions are written for each page.
  • They’re short enough to fit in a search results snippet.
  • They match what users would generally be looking for when going to that specific page.

Keep in mind that, even if the above criteria is met, Google may still decide to display a different meta description.

Let’s say, for example, a person enters a particularly obscure query.

If the answer to that query matches a specific snippet of text from your web page, then Google will probably override your meta description with that snippet of text.

If you want your exact meta description to be shown for a particular query, then make sure it’s as relevant to the query as it can be.

Hear the full question and answer in the video below:

We try to do two things when it comes to displaying the descriptions in search results.

On the one hand we try to recognize when there’s irrelevant meta descriptions given on page, which could be like a collection of keywords.

It could be something where you have the same description across a large number of pages.

That’s something where we would probably jump in with our algorithms to try and resolve that.

And the other case is when the meta description is something that doesn’t match at all what the user is searching for.

Where we think probobably it would be easier for the user to understand why this page is relevant if we pick something from the page itself that covers those queries a little bit better with what they’re actually looking for.

Those are kind of the main situations where we end up rewriting the description that we provide in the search results.

So if you can make sure that your pages have unique meta descriptions, that are kind of short, that they would kind of fit into a snippet on a page, and that they match what users would generally be looking for when they’re going to that page then chances are pretty high that we’ll just reuse what you have in the description meta tag.

Category News SEO
SEJ STAFF Matt G. Southern Senior News Writer at Search Engine Journal

Matt G. Southern, Senior News Writer, has been with Search Engine Journal since 2013. With a bachelor’s degree in communications, ...

Google Offers Suggestions For Avoiding Meta Description Rewrites

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