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I have unique meta descriptions on each of my pages, and when I search my site in google it will come up with no description.

Any idea what I might have done wrong?

  • How recently did you add these descriptions? Could you provide a link to the site. – toomanyairmiles Feb 17 '12 at 14:32
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    If there is no description at all in the SERPs then it might be because Google has not properly indexed your page yet. Also, the meta description is only advisory. Other page content will be used for the description if it is deemed more relevant. – MrWhite Feb 17 '12 at 14:37
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    Also see this recent question, which turned out to be that the asker was actually causing the problem with robots.txt – Su' Feb 17 '12 at 16:41
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    What are you using to search your site? if you're using "site:www.example.com" then it should display either your meta descriptions, or alternatively some suitable content from the page. See also When is meta description still relevent – Zhaph - Ben Duguid Feb 17 '12 at 17:04
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You don't have control over whether or not Google uses your meta description tag in its search results. That content can come from various sources and it is up to Google to decide which it thinks is best for that result.

From Does Google use the Meta Description Tag for Description of Page?

Google will choose your search results snippets from the following places (not necessarily in this order):

  1. The page's Meta Description tag
  2. Page content relevant to the search query

If you want to encourage Google to use your Meta Description tag then make sure it is unique to each page. Also make sure it contains an accurate description of the page's content.

In the absence of a Meta Description tag, Google will use a portion of the page's text as the description. This text will contain the closest matches to the search query. I have not seen any official limit to how long this can be but a couple of sentences seems about right.

On a related note, if you don't want a snippet to be shown with a particular page you can use the following Meta tag to prevent one from being shown:

<meta name="robots" content="nosnippet">

See this blog post for Google's tips on using the meta description tag.

According to this site, "The meta description should typically be at most 145 to 150 characters in length as these are the maximum number of characters typically displayed at Yahoo! and Google, respectively."

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You should review your site in Google Webmaster Tools, check for HTML suggestions and errors. They'll tell you if there's a problem with your meta tags. I would also check that your robots.txt isn't blocking Googlebot. View your site in your browser check the source see whats there. Maybe some scripts are conflicting and messed up your descriptions?

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You may want to check your robots.txt often times if a page is blocked by robots.txt but Google finds it another way (external sites linking to it) they add the URL but do not index the content, the result is typically the URL showing up for specific queries such as "site:examplesite.com" search without any description.

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My general practice is:

  1. Ensure you do a Google Fetch and Render test, it's important that Google and Bing see the content after the render. Often poorly coded or poorly installed page loaders can cause issues, its important that in the render you see the page contents, not the page loader, this is because Google and Bing like to list meaningful descriptions that correspond with the page contents.
  2. Ensure you do a CURL test and ensure that your code can be seen by search engines.
  3. Ensure you Test your HTML for any major errors and ideally clean up any warnings you may encounter so that your website is compatible for most users.
  4. Ensure that you test your robots.txt using Google or any other reputable robots tester, it's important that your site is readable to search engines, in this includes CSS, JavaScriptand WordPress plugins etc.
  5. Ensure that you are not using NOODP since this can prevent meta descriptions and page titles from working correctly.
  6. Ensure that your pages load quick enough, your pages should load within 3 seconds but ideally between 1-2 seconds. I recommend you use Web Page Test using 10 passes with multiple regions (EUROPE, AMERICAS, MIDDLE-EAST, ASIA), consider optimising your site if required by reducing server-side requests.
  7. Finally, ensure that you wait at least a few days to a week for Google or Bing to correctly index your site descriptions and titles, it is not unusual for Google or Bing for that matter to index strangely... at the beginning.

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