Is there a cross search engine solution to customize the name&description of a site in search engine results without them explicit declaration on the index page?

StackOverflow is displayed in the Google results with a description that doesn't exists neither at that page itself, nor inside any <meta> tag:

"A language-independent..." seems to be a custom description

"A language-independent..." seems to be a custom description

But seems there's no even any "description" meta tag

... but seems there's no even the "description" meta tag.

How does it work?

  • 2
    Having a home page with no functionality other than a forward button is bad SEO practice and bad user experience. Your home page should have information, content, or functionality that the user expects. Apr 13, 2016 at 19:52
  • If there's nothing actually on your homepage then presumably it's not returned in search results anyway and you are targeting the inner pages?
    – MrWhite
    Apr 13, 2016 at 21:48
  • 3
    @StephenOstermiller Sadly, Google still returns thin sites regularly... see Simon Hayter, my site is completely empty and regularly beats the likes of imdb and other sites with actual content. Sadly, Google drills it into everyone that content is king and without it you won't rank but this is far from the truth. Off page signals can make any site regardless of the content. Not saying content doesn't help because it does, but with the right off-page signals, anything will rank regardless of the quality of the site. Apr 13, 2016 at 21:52
  • 1
    I believe it has to be this way because you have web apps and games which technically have zero text content. Slither is a great example, currently viral and played by many hundreds of people all throughout the day and night (good game by the way LOL, top score 16k so far), so how do you rank such a site which has next to none content? simple, off page SEO. With less you need more and with more you need less... Apr 13, 2016 at 21:58
  • There is no reason that a game site couldn't put descriptive text up on the home page. When you press the "play" button the text is replaced by the game. Apr 14, 2016 at 0:39

4 Answers 4


This is a really good question! However, the answer can be found relatively easily with a site:stackoverflow.com "A language-independent collaboratively" search.

The first thing you need to know:


We use a number of different sources for this information, including descriptive information in the title and meta tags for each page. We may also use publicly available information—for instance, anchor text or listings from the Open Directory Project (DMOZ)—or create rich snippets based on markup on the page.

If a description meta tag is not found for a page, Google will look for a snippet in content or in other places. Much of the time, it depends upon upon the search query. Since this is clearly a brand search for a known brand, it is likely that a different set of criteria are applied as opposed to a term based search.

This SERP snippet comes from DMOZ.


See item #2:

Stack Overflow - A language-independent collaboratively edited question and answer site for programmers.

I did a few other searches and checked JavaScript and looked for mark-up, however, nothing showed up. The only place I found a source for the SERP snippet was DMOZ.

For what it is worth, it seems this question has been asked on StackOverflow: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/3796793/how-to-programmatically-provide-site-structure-and-url-path-to-google-search

  • Nice answer man. I didn't know G "officially" looks around to grab snips like that. Strange....they look down on link directories, yet they use an ancient/outdated/dupy/entitlement/bias/club/goodolboys link directory to build a crucial SE description that can be found modernized from various other places.
    – dhaupin
    May 18, 2016 at 15:57
  • @dhaupin Until this morning, I would have agreed. It seems that Google still does silly 5h17 like take DMOZ seriously. That is soooooo 2008! It goes back to my explanation of legacy code and how old code does not disappear. I keep this in mind as I give my SEO advice. I look at what is new, old, and how technology works. Part of this is what legacy code may still exist. For example, Google still favors lots of cr@ppy links to rank sites. Even if they come from one site! Sheeeessshh! Just when you think they are getting their act together, you see old junk ranking hacks still being effective.
    – closetnoc
    May 18, 2016 at 16:03
  • @dhaupin In fact, until this morning, I could not have given you an example of Google pulling from DMOZ now or ever. This would have made me conclude that it likely does not pull from DMOZ - at least not any more. This is why I agree! Cheers!!
    – closetnoc
    May 18, 2016 at 16:10

Your best bet are title and meta description tags. These will be used in most cases, although there can be exceptions.

Stack Overflow's description is most likely taken from DMOZ (http://www.dmoz.org/Reference/Ask_an_Expert/Computers_and_Technology/). Google will sometimes use the description from DMOZ instead of the provided meta description or a Google-generated description.

Unfortunately, this behavior can not be controlled by the webmaster. In this example, Google probably decided to use the DMOZ description since Stack Overflow provides no meta description and the page itself also does not offer enough content to generate an adequate description.

  • Great minds think alike! You can control much of how Google creates a SERP snippet for many of the searches.
    – closetnoc
    May 18, 2016 at 13:29

No what you are asking unfortunately is not possible. The site description which is shown in search results isn't based on the description meta tag anymore, instead Google and other search engines use content from the page which the user can see as the description in search results. If you want description text your search engine results you need to have page content and ideally speaking based on SEO your search engine landing pages should be actual content pages on your site and not a homepage with nothing other than a forward link.

  • 2
    I have my meta description visible in Bing, Yahoo and duckduckgo, and I just checked, it is there on Google mobile (cannot test desktop at the moment). So I wouldn't say it is impossible. Imho if there is more relevant text on the page that has precedence over the meta tag, but if the text on the page is not relevant, the meta description is a good fallback. Apr 14, 2016 at 7:56
  • If you google "stackoverflow", you'll see it's description as "A language-independent collaboratively edited question and answer site for programmers.". But I haven't found any meta tag with such content. How does it work?
    – WildDev
    May 18, 2016 at 7:38
  • The description meta tag is almost always used by Google if it fits some simple criteria. However, if the description meta tag is not written well, then it will almost never show. There are just a few simple and highly effective tricks to managing an effective SERP snippet.
    – closetnoc
    May 18, 2016 at 12:59

The Data that are displayed in the search results are based on Structured Data and you can learn more about it from the link below.


If you are having a WordPress site, you can attain many of the features you want using the Yoast SEO plugin which can be downloaded from the official WordPress plugin store for free.

Let me know if my suggestions helped you.

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