SEO FAQs – Google Search Snippets

Why isn’t Google using my meta description in their snippet?

Over the last year we’ve noticed more and more questions from clients about their meta data not being pulled through to the Google search results page. This isn’t usually due to anything broken on the website but instead down to Google looking for more information on the page. Unfortunately the only control we have over this is what we put in the meta description, we can’t force Google to use certain text.

In September 2009 Google confirmed that they were no longer using meta descriptions or meta keywords as a ranking factor. This was largely due to people abusing these areas to attempt to rank for lots of keywords, but also a signal that Google’s algorithms had become sophisticated enough to work out what was on the page without the need for these areas. Due to this increased technology they are now able to pick out text from the page they think is relevant to the current search.

To make this more difficult Google will often show the same link with different snippets and titles for different search terms. So you may not see the same result you see for “site:www.example.com/levi-jeans” as you would for “levi jeans” or “jeans from levis” even if the same page appeared for all three terms.

Why won’t Google use my meta description?

Sometimes there’s a clear reason Google hasn’t used the meta description. This could be because they didn’t deem it relevant enough to the page, the description is too long or it’s been stuffed with keywords.

In some cases, however, the meta description may be perfectly relevant and correct, but Google has decided to use other information on the page. There’s nothing we can do to force this to change and Google have never released any official word on why they wouldn’t use it, or what they’d like to see.

How can I fix this?

First of all the meta description should be unique to that particular page, it should be of around 140 characters in length and should be relevant to the page. We always advise that the meta description should be a short sentence which entices people to click rather than disjoined list of keywords.

Each meta description should have the following:

  • The main keyword for the page: “Levi Jeans”
  • A call to action:  “Browse our range”
  • The name of the website.
  • A unique selling point: “Free UK Delivery.”

So for example:

“Browse our range of Levi Jeans at Clothing Store UK. Spend £50 or more and receive free UK delivery.”

If you’ve set out your meta descriptions correctly, but are still finding Google is ignoring them, then it’s best to ensure that the opening lines of the on page text has a call to action and a unique selling point as this is the text which will most likely be used instead.

Looking for more SEO tips? We offer an SEO for Beginners workshop that covers everything from meta data, to making sure your website is technically sound. Visit the Visualsoft Training page for more information

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