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Meta Descriptions - Not In Results For Exact Phrases

 6:04 pm on Nov 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

Looking into a potential duplication issue. My site has custom written meta descriptions based on the page & some sales copy.

However, I've recently been struggling and looking into some aspects of my site. I did a site search, and searched for a snippet of the meta description off some of my key pages. Sure enough 5-10 scraper sites have indexed the meta description I entered for the homepage/top level pages.

My site does not appear in the search results when searching for a snippet of most of my meta descriptions. Is this potentially causing me harm, as a search engine may be assigning my content to another site/page as mine don't appear. The only way I can think of fixing this is introducing the proposed meta description onto the page first, then mirroring into the meta tags once indexed.



 6:41 pm on Nov 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

Do your meta descriptions appear as a snippet when you do a plain site:example.com search?


 6:44 pm on Nov 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

Yes they do. It does not appear however, when searching for "a sample of the meta description" - other sites show up.


 6:54 pm on Nov 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

After a quick bit of research, it looks like the meta descriptions are not stored in the main index / search results. Scraper sites seem to be taking advantage of this by using this information as unique content. Sites ranking at number 1 for competitive phrases are showing the same results as I described above, so in theory it doesn't seem like it's a duplication issue with Google as I first thought. (just wondered if anyone had come across this before)


 9:39 am on Nov 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

If your descriptions appear for site: command, they definitely ARE indexed...


 1:55 pm on Nov 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

But not against your site. If someone has used your meta description content in between <body> tags on a page it will appear against that domain. (it would seem!)

It definitley doesn't work the same as the title tag.


 5:05 pm on Nov 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

This is the common effect today. If a meta description's content does not also occur between the <body></body> tags (or in backlink anchor text), then that url won't be "tagged" as relevant for searches on that content. The logic here is that the user would not see their search terms when they click on that particular search result.


 6:17 pm on Nov 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

Exactly. I was just wondering originally, if this may be held against you as to someone not knowing this, may think the content was lifted from another site.

It's different with the <title> tag which seems to be assigned against a source/site, but the meta descriptions (and probably keywords) are treated completley differently.


 7:05 pm on Nov 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

meta descriptions (and probably keywords) are treated completley differently

The meta keywords element is a total non-starter for ranking purposes on Google. The meta description often shows up in the snippet below the Title on the SERPs, but Google does not use the meta keywords tag as a relevance signal or ever display its content in search results.

You may want to continue using the meta keywords element for other purposes, such as an internal site search application or some directories - even Yahoo may use it just for spelling alternatives - but you can forget about any effect in Google Search.

The same logic applies as with the meta description - if the content doesn't display in the page, they don't want the page to rank for those words.


 8:23 pm on Nov 18, 2008 (gmt 0)


I appreciate your points on the meta keywords - it's a complete non starter from a google rankings perspective. I'd just like to delve slightly into what's stored in google's search index and what isn't, as if this is the case I'll modify my approach.

From a ranking perspective, I see lots of questions asked about the meta description, and what exactly it does for a site. I've been under the impression that it's not related to rankings from a google perspective, but religiously I repeat my main keyphrases / words for the page to a) highlight on a serp, and b) in case it's still taken into account in the ranking algorithm behind the scenes.

After finding the meta descriptions aren't in the main google index and are readily duplicated on other sites, it just threw me slightly and made me think about them :)


 9:31 pm on Nov 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

Make sure that your most important on-page words are represented in the meta description, and make sure the meta description is unique for each page and specific to its content. That will trigger the meta description as a snippet in the SERPs, at least in most cases. Otherwise, you get Google's choice in the snippet. That choice is certainly improving as time passes, but it's still an automated choice and you can usually do better.

But as you've seen, meta descriptions are not directly searchable - and neither are keywords. They are "indexed" in the strictest meaning of the term, but they are not tagged to be searchable.

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