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Pre-HTML5 we used div and ul tags to markup navigation bars and a lot of times the navigation is at the top of the HTML document. In the absence of meta description content, Google uses its own logic to determine what to use in place of the description to show in the search results. Turns out it picks the text in the navigation bar instead of the page contents.

Will using nav tags to markup navigation make Google skip the navigation? What tags will indicate to Google that the enclosed content is the main page content?

Please avoid suggesting the use description meta tag to "solve" this problem. I am more of trying to understand the behaviour and result when not using description meta tags.

  • I am pretty sure that googlebot recognize <ul> and <li> tag and doesn't index them because there aren't so many websites that doesn't use top navigation bars or at least left/right while they are still at the top of the markup, your best approach would be to go for the html5 navigation tags, because google will recognize it the best, also you don't need to worry. – knif3r Feb 26 '16 at 19:55
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Normally, Google will only use the text in a navigation bar only if it's relevant to the search itself.

If you're looking for a way to make sure it skips it, HTML5 the nav tag may not help too much - at least for the time being, this may and should change.

To make absolutely sure that pagination text is skipped, I suggest displaying it via before: or after: pseudo elements, after all, it is presentation, not content.

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I don't have a link but read an article within the last few months, possibly Matt Cutts but definitely from Google, who said Google still does not consider the new HTML5 elements when analyzing content. So using <nav> makes no difference but a link is a link, a heading <hx> is a heading, and text is text and carry far more weight than anything else you can do. <main>, <section> and <article> mean nothing. Even browsers don't use them for the outline algorithm.

If you think you can hide content inside a HTML5 document then quit thinking that. You can advise and give hints but Google will do what they think is important for search cause they're a lot better at it than anyone else.

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There's a few tricks that can be used to stop Google grabbing random text for dynamic descriptions:

  1. HTML5 elements <article> and <aside> can be used to direct Google to what it should consider the 'main content'. It will stop scraping descriptions from <asides>.

  2. It won't pick descriptions from titles or navigation bars. Same with the <footer> element.

  3. If you're using lots of divs full of text, you can add HTML5 class names to mimic the behaviour of 1. and 2. - <div class="nav"> for example.

  4. Google will only grab descriptive text that shows relevance to the query. If it thinks it's more relevant than your description meta tag - it will ignore the tag. Make sure the first piece of text surrounding the query you're trying to get a description for is relevant and looks 'search worthy'.

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The current HTML ("HTML5") standard includes a <main> element for this purpose. Using separate header / footer / nav / main elements help you indicate the main page content; something like:

HTML elements

You should also find the relevant Microdata/Schema.org schema for your page content. A Product for example would use itemprop="name" to identify what the product is and itemprop="description" to actually describe it.

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  • <main> is poorly supported on IE 11 and older Android browsers. One recommendation I have is that you use an <aside> element if you want Google to ignore text. It tends not to consider text in these elements when constructing descriptions! – L Martin Oct 24 '16 at 15:26
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    @Yhorian Google does not ignore text in any element on any web page it crawls. I don't know why you think that or where your source of such a thought comes from. – Rob Oct 24 '16 at 16:24

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