Is Google Showing a Different Description than What’s in Your Meta Tags?
June 5, 2012
Every once in a while the description you put in your meta tag is different than the one you see in the search results. There are a variety of reasons why this may happen.
First, let’s explain the purpose of the meta description. The meta description is a way for you to describe what a page is about, along with your title tag. Traditionally, what you put in the meta description would be what you see as the description in the search results. A while ago, meta descriptions even counted toward on-page optimization and keyword targeting. That being said, what you put in the meta description should be 1. a description of the page and 2. should be something that entices searchers to choose your listing over another.
Now that we know the purpose of the meta description, let’s discuss what Google wants. Google wants to provide the best results for its searchers, sometimes the results they choose don’t scream the term you typed in, so they’ll have to improvise.
This leads us to the reasons why Google doesn’t use the description you put in your meta tags in the search results.
- Google decided that the description you put in the meta tags doesn’t describe what your page is really about.
- Google decided to take a snippet from your website containing the searchers’ search queries to highlight the part of the page that mentions the query in context.
- Google doesn’t think your description is accurate, so it has to find something else to display.
- Google doesn’t trust your whole website’s meta descriptions, so they pretty much never use them and just find relevant parts of your page, or the 1st line of content in your body to display.
- Your website is relevant to a term you’re not really targeting, but mentioned somewhere in the content.
These may all sound very similar, but are all very different.
When Google shows something different than what you put in your meta tags, what they put in place of it is a called a “snippet”. Usually if Google decides to show a snippet, it’s in your website’s best interest. They are basically saying “hey searchers, this isn’t what they put in their meta description, but here’s how they are using the term and why we think they are relevant to what you are looking for.”
If you are having the problem where even what Google finds on your website isn’t relevant, and they aren’t using your meta description, you may have to re-consider your page assignment and on-page keyword targeting.
If you insist on not letting Google choose what to put and wish to display what you place in your metas, you have to add a meta tag that orders Google not use snippets.
Which looks like this;
<meta name="googlebot" content="nosnippet">
Just remember, Google is trying to help you out, because you’re not helping yourself with proper on-page optimization.