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Does Google Index Meta Descriptions?

 12:32 am on Mar 29, 2013 (gmt 0)

I have looked all over the internet, and I can not seem to find the answer. Does Google index meta descriptions? Will it also matter if many of the meta descriptions are alike? Only differing in maybe two or words or so? Lastly, Would it also matter if it has the same meta descriptions as other sites?

Thanks for your help.




 3:54 am on Mar 29, 2013 (gmt 0)

No. The <meta> description isn't indexed and the contents aren't matched against the search query for keywords. But since the <meta> description is often used for the snippet in the search results, it makes sense to put some effort into composing it carefully to encourage clicks. A good <meta> description can significantly help you outperform the entries ranking above you when your page does appear in the results.

In terms of rankings, I haven't seen any evidence that this tag has any impact whatsoever. Looking at the tea leaves, I sometimes speculate that it can be a positive factor in your site's overall quality score - however nebulous that seems, and I'm probably alone in this. But if it counts at all in this regard, the effect is extremely small, so I only consider the tag in terms of click-throughs when I compose them.


 7:56 am on Mar 29, 2013 (gmt 0)

Google indicate whether your <meta> descriptions are duplicate (and too long or too short) in Webmaster Tools, so this indicates to me that they consider them a quality signal on some level.

The bolding of search terms found in the tag gives reinforcement in the SERPs too, so it's worth writing one that includes the keywords for that page.

I don't know if Google compares them across different sites to see if they are unique, but I'd not take one from other site myself. On whatever level that they are a quality signal, they're an easy one to get right, so why not do that?

Robert Charlton

 8:20 am on Mar 29, 2013 (gmt 0)

I think there's some confusion here, about what the word "indexed" means. Yes, meta tags are "indexed". Otherwise, Google couldn't store and display them.

That said, I agree with the rest of what's been said here. Google does not use them as a direct ranking factor. As noted, their effect on click throughs might have an indirect effect... and no, you don't want to copy them from other sites.


 11:29 pm on Mar 29, 2013 (gmt 0)

Thanks guys, I appreciate it.


 11:38 pm on Mar 29, 2013 (gmt 0)

couldn't I test if the meta description is indexed? By taking it putting it in quotes and using the site operator. for example, "this is my meta description" site:http://www.mysite.com . Then, putting it in Google and searching for it? Or, would that not work?


 1:26 am on Mar 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

you could try that search but it will merely verify rainborick's and Robert Charlton's responses.


 1:30 am on Mar 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

Why are you asking us? :) Go try it. In fact I was thinking along the identical lines myself and I am in a superlative position to test because I'm sure I have some unique metas lying around.

:: shuffling papers ::

Oh, this is funny. I plugged in part of the meta phrase from one of my /fonts/ pages. Result:

No results found for "Details about {rest of string here}".

... and then, if you please, the selfsame page comes bobbing to the #1 surface. Curiously, the same experiment with a different page yielded no results at all...

...until I unpacked the single word "Mac{fontname}" into two, at which point I get the same response as above, this time with the added fillip of quoting the identical meta description that they just said they couldn't find.

Further random testing suggests that it only works if the words in your description also occur in the text of the page. There are probably a good many "stop words" and/or synonyms involved, though: In my case, the exact word "detail(s)" doesn't occur on either page.

Interesting food for thought, there. Should you set your meta description-- or the beginning of it --to a phrase (unquoted) that currently brings your page up to the top?

Robert Charlton

 2:13 am on Mar 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

lucy24 posted (and my emphasis added)...
Further random testing suggests that it only works if the words in your description also occur in the text of the page.

Vague antecedent here, lucy. Please clarify what you mean by "it". I might guess, but I wouldn't want to put words into your mouth.


 12:21 am on Apr 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

So, then the answer is yes and no? I tested it myself and got the same results. But, I agree with Robert, if it was not indexed, how would they retrieve it?


 12:38 am on Apr 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

So, then the answer is yes and no?

I think you'll have to define indexed to get a more direct answer to your question.

If you mean "indexed" as in you search for some unique string in it like @#GDGRINROIBGQREIQ$#@%$# and it'll rank in the results for that query without the actual string on the page, then no not last I checked or heard anyway.

If you mean "indexed" as in they know it's there, have a copy of it, and use it on occasion (sometimes more often than others) then yes. There's info all over about it:


The description attribute within the <meta> tag is a good way to provide a concise, human-readable summary of each page’s content. Google will sometimes use the meta description of a page in search results snippets, if we think it gives users a more accurate description than would be possible purely from the on-page content. Accurate meta descriptions can help improve your clickthrough; here are some guidelines for properly using the meta description.


I'm sure you'll find plenty more by searching for something like "google page title and meta description use" in your favorite search engine, or something like "matt cutts youtube meta description" might turn up more info.


 12:54 am on Apr 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

Vague antecedent here

Uhm. Uh. Yeah. Oops.

"It" = searching for a phrase from your meta tag will bring up the page that the meta tag occurs on.

But, as noted via further experiment, only coincidentally. Although Google has your meta description indexed, it doesn't count as part of the page for search purposes. Only for result-display purposes.

Perversely, terms that don't occur on the page at all-- see utterly unrelated post from 2011 involving words "world's leading authority" --ARE used in searching. The moral, I guess, is: It doesn't matter what you say about yourself, only what others say about you.

For comparison purposes I ran over and tried my two /fonts/ queries on That Other Search Engine, and then in yandex for good measure. Identical results every time.


 1:17 pm on Apr 6, 2013 (gmt 0)

Although Google has your meta description indexed, it doesn't count as part of the page for search purposes. Only for result-display purposes.

This thread promted me to try a search for myself on a complete page meta description. Result - G doesn't count it for search but Bing appears to.

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