Google Selectively Ignoring Meta Description Tags?

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I’ve been doing some SEO Consulting with Safeguard Financial, a company specializing in Self Directed IRA’s. As I was chatting with them today, they pointed out something odd that I’ve never seen before.

On their home page, they’ve used the following meta description tag:

<meta name=”description” content=”The Value Leader in Self Directed IRA, Real Estate IRA, Checkbook IRA, Solo 401(k) and IRA Business funding plans. LOW COST GUARANTEE.” />

If you do a Google Search for Self Directed IRA’s, you should find their website http://www.ira123.com on Page 1 with that particular Meta Description.

However, it was pointed out to me that if you do a Google Search for Self Directed IRA LLC (a very relevant search term in the space), Google ignores the meta description tag and shows the following snippet that appears on the home page.

Investment Real Estate is one of the more popular options for using a Self-Directed IRA, otherwise known as a Real Estate IRA or Self Directed IRA LLC. …

Other searches such as “self directed ira allowed investments” and “self directed ira investing rules” behave similarly. But if I do a search for “self directed ira business funding” (words fully contained in the meta description tag), I get the tag to show verbatim.

A long time ago, I wrote about why I think meta description tags suck…mostly because if the user query didn’t map to the language of the tag, the meta tag would decrease the likelihood of the visitor going to the site. In almost all cases, I would favor Google’s snippet over a “limiting” meta description tag.

However, what I’m seeing here is that Google is algorithmically deciding whether the meta description tag sucks or not based upon how well the user query maps to the tag. If it sucks, they’ll show a relevant text snippet. If it’s good, they’ll show the tag verbatim.

If my theory is correct, Google is removing the risk of using meta description tags that perhaps don’t map to all possible search engine queries. This certainly offers a better user experience (making the SERPS clearer for searchers) as well as a better SEO / Webmaster experience (solving the problem of having to writing meta description tags that map to all possible user intents which is impossible).

Bravo Matt!

Todd Mintz is the Director of Internet Marketing & Information Systems for S.R. Clarke Inc. He also is on the Board of Directors at SEMpdx, runs his own side gigs and tweets quite a bit.

Todd Mintz
Todd Mintz knows PPC...knows Social Media...knows SEO...knows Blogging...knows Domaining...and knows them all real well. He is also a Director & Founding Member of SEMpdx: Portland,... Read Full Bio
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