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I found a webpage without a meta-description in the page source but when I did a site: search, the webpage had a description.

How does this play into SEO?

Was the description generated based on a default description possible? If the meta-description isn't defined in the source under the meta data but there is still one on a site: search does Google penalize that page for not having a defined meta-description in the source?

This website has 210 webpages and only about 15 of them have a meta-description in the code but using a meta-description checker I have found there to be no meta-description despite one appearing on a site: search.

Of the pages with no meta-description, they all have the same one that appears on the site: search.

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    Pretty obvious that Google is adding that :) When is the last time you ever noticed a site without a meta description in Google or Bing search results, simple you don't. Search engines add it to give people information about the site they are about to click. You don't have control over this other than setting your own meta, its auto populated for user experience for people using those search engines. – Simon Hayter Jan 16 '16 at 0:33
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Here is the deal. Some of which you may not be aware of.

If there is no description meta-tag within the source code, you should add one. It should compliment the title tag and h1 tag as well as being long enough to span more than one line in the SERPs and no longer than 170 characters. Do not push the character limit. The description meta-tag should contain enough semantic clues (keywords) to cover the more important ways people will or do find your page. There should always be a description meta-tag.

Having said that, if there is no description meta-tag for that page, Google, Bing, and others will find a portion of content to use for the SERP snippet. You can control how the SERP snippet appears most of the time with a well crafted description meta-tag, however, the SERP snippet can again be a portion of content depending upon the search query. This is why I say that the description meta-tag should have enough semantic clues (keywords) to cover the most important search queries.

For the record, for Google, the description meta-tag is strong clue for how your page should be found. It is not content therefore is not really weighed, but is part of the blended result sets that make up the SERP results making it one of the most important HTML elements. It can be ignored if it does not match the other strong clues such as the title tag and h1 tag. This means that the description meta-tag should not be manipulated for search. It has to semantically correlate (be similar in linguistics/language) with the other tags. None of these tags should be identical or even too close, just similar.

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First of all I don't believe by not adding meta desc tag in source code, Google will penalize you. Second thing you are not using meta desc tag but still Google showing meta desc in search then it obvious Google is using your page content as meta desc to show in search

protected by Stephen Ostermiller Sep 29 '17 at 19:29

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