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We have a valid description meta tag on our website. We recently updated it.

Temporarily we included a character (plus symbol) that may have been invalid. Since including this character, google would ignore the description meta tag and pick up some text from an overlay (semi transparent div with a message in the middle about data refresh) as the description.

We then fixed the description by replacing the + with its html equivalent: +

Since fixing this, google is showing the correct meta description, but only half of the time (approximately)

We forced a re-index using google's webmaster tools for our site but the problem is still present 3 days later (google alternates randomly between showing the correct description, and the text in our overlay)

Is there a way to force google not to use text from parts of a page if it can't use the meta description (or decides not to). Failing that, is google simply taking too long to fully recongise that we fixed the meta description?

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    In which conditions do you see Google showing the meta description? What is the tag? Is there a reason to think that some minor changes like using “+” would have any effect? Google may indeed randomize things; it may be part of their strategies in fighting against spamdexing. – Jukka K. Korpela Jul 30 '14 at 10:07
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    Google "optionally" uses the Meta Description content. If their algorithm finds other content on the page to be more relevant, they will return that as the snippet sample text. You don't force Google to do anything. That's why Meta Keywords is ignored and Meta Description only provides pretty, but no weighting towards search relevance. – Fiasco Labs Jul 30 '14 at 14:47
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If all your page titles are too similar, they may also choose to use the text from somewhere else on the page. Make sure all the pages have different descriptions, and that description relates to other content on the page so that it is seen as relevant to what the page is about.

Also:

  • 3 days doesn't seem long. You've told them that the site needs crawling again, not to crawl it again now. If you click "cached" next to your URL in the listings, it will give a date of the version in their database. Crawl stats in webmaster tools will also let you know when they were last on your site.
  • Meta descriptions do need character encoding to validate (whilst good coding practise, I'm actually quite surprised that Google ignore the rest of the tag based on this - encoding the tag may not actually be what made Google change their listings, even if it seemed that way)

I believe you could only remove sections of text from their listings by cloaking it, which would run the risk of your site looking like spam, so I would not do that.

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  • The cached version shows a date of yesterday, which is after we fixed the +. I'll look into the titles are too similar. Thanks for the answer. – MrVimes Jul 30 '14 at 10:13

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