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I have a website which is structured like a simple blog - on the left side (so first in the HTML code) I have listed some blog posts. On the right side, a I have a column with things like website information, etc.

When I google my website, in the description under search results I see an extract of my first post visible on the page (hierarchically placed first in the source code) which is not a proper description on my main page. I tried to set a meta-description, but it seems that Google ignores it. When I try to look for some specific posts, the shown description is correct, the problem is only for main page.

How does Google decide which extract will be used for the description? Or does Google take whatever it finds first in the HTML? I was thinking about putting some content in the HTML and hiding it visually, but it seems like cheating is not such a good idea.

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    Google uses the meta description if it matches to what the user is searching if the meta description does not match then Google will sometimes use the content on the page to match what the user is searching for. Repeated content such as those in the header, footer or sidebar is generally ignored in this process. – Simon Hayter Mar 31 '18 at 10:50
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When Google doesn't use meta description, it will usually use the most relevant text on the page that is related to their customer's search terms. If it doesn't use the most relevant text, then it will most likely use the first text discovered on a page in its search results.

Let's say that your site is structured as:

<span class="column left">foo</span>
<span class="column middle">bar</span>
<span class="column right">lorem ipsum</span>

The likely outcome is that Google will show "foo" as the first word in the search description.

If you want "bar" to be displayed in the search results, it may be better to try and format the page as:

<span class="column middle">bar</span>
<span class="column left">foo</span>
<span class="column right">lorem ipsum</span>

If you're using position:fixed; for your columns, then the ordering of your spans shouldn't matter in the browser rendering.

There is an added bonus of having your middle column first in your HTML rendering anyway. It may be a ranking signal to search engines that content higher up in your html is more likely to be what your page is about. I'm assuming that the keywords you're targeting are in "column middle" and not "column left", so you may want to structure your site this way.

Other search engines and crawlers may not be rendering your position:fixed; columns, and so the only way that they can determine what your page is most about and what content is likely to be above the fold is by the ordering of your html.

  • In my experience Google prefers the first sentence that contains some of the search phrase, rather than the first text. – Stephen Ostermiller Mar 31 '18 at 20:10
  • That's true too that probably comes first, then the first line – Michael d Mar 31 '18 at 22:46

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