Last Updated on July 31, 2020
What’s The SERP Saying
Recently we have noticed a number of clients having issues with the meta descriptions for their pages not being shown. Instead, Google has been creating their own meta from the pages opening text. In many cases, we’re seeing the very first sentence, or paragraph, display on the SERP instead of our carefully crafted meta. So what’s going on?Ready to Talk?
Google’s Algorithm will occasionally replace the meta tags if it can get a click for a specific keyword based on the visitor’s browsing history. So Google’s AI brain will make an educated guess if your meta is going to work, or if the opening text is more likely to get a click.
Meta Description on Display
We recently spoke with Google’s John Mueller at his weekly Webmasters Office Hours to discuss emerging issues and answer questions. John mentioned he’s getting more feedback about a specific part of the algorithm as Google’s replacement of the meta is occurring more frequently. His response was “it seems that Google has adjusted that piece of the algorithm.” So while this isn’t a new thing, it does seem to be happening more and more often, which is another sign of Google’s growing confidence in the efficiency of their AI.
So, if you notice that your meta descriptions aren’t displaying properly, there’s no need to panic. But it might be worth looking at the meta descriptions you’ve written because if Google keeps on swapping them out, it’s probably a sign that they could do with being refreshed.
We’ve since captured a Google rendered meta in the wild. As you can see below the content selected by Google to make up the meta description might make sense from an SEO perspective, but for the customer, it is unlikely to entice them to click.
The laundry list of available products is a logical choice but doesn’t do enough to ‘sell’ the website. For reference here is the original metal description:
The meta that we constructed is still served for some search queries, but not all. So far we haven’t found a clear pattern to explain when Google makes the substitution. But we’ll keep investigating.
A further update regarding meta descriptions has come through from Google via Danny Sullivan.
So, metas will remain longer than before. But not quite as long as they were. And there’s not necessarily a fixed length. Nice and clear… At the moment we would suggest you stick to writing between 150 and 200 character metas, as well as making sure that if the top paragraph of your page is used as the meta description, it will look good on the SERP.
Are you not seeing your meta descriptions on the search engine results page? Do you have tactics to make sure your meta descriptions are always showing? We’d love to hear from you.