Why doesn’t my META Description show in Google Search?

Instead, there is just some text from my page. So how can you make your meta description actually show up in search?

Perry’s Answer.

The first point to make is that a META Description’s content is not counted towards SEO. While you might have keywords in it, they do not count as content keywords for your page.

This element doesn’t affect SEO in any direct way, but a great META Description can influence Click Through Rates from search.

I understand these things to be true about Google Search:

  • Google will regularly ignore your META description and insert other text that it finds on your page in its place.
  • It does that because for the specific user query, your META description was not the best match, according to Google, and there was better text elsewhere in your page.
  • You can’t force Google to use your META description, but you can make it statistically more likely that it appears. (Read further below).

According to a 2020 study by Evan Hall of Portent.com, META Descriptions were found to be replaced by Google by about 70% of the time.

This post in the same year, authored by Michal Pecanek for ahrefs.com found similar, saying that the rewrite rate was about 63%.

While both are now a few years ago, I believe the facts haven’t changed much.

How do you improve performance for a META Description?

That’s tricky! Mainly because you won’t be able to determine for sure whether it rendered as written, or was swapped out by Google, for every user instance that your page appeared in search. That’s an impossible task.

What you can do is apply tactics to increase the likelihood that a good text snippet appears in the META Description space in search results, and you can monitor performance by watching your long-term Click Through Rate against your Average Position in search to see whether what you’re doing is making a difference.

But even this is tricky: If your Average Position fluctuates a lot, this could have far more influence on CTR than the META Description.

Keep this in mind when you’re trying to figure it all out.

How do you make your META Description show up more often?

This involves writing a META Description that satisfies the most important queries where the page shows up in the first page of search results.

Consider this saying: If a tree fell in the forest and there was nobody there to hear it, did it make a sound?

Applying this sort of philosophical question to your META Description: If your page is ranked 57th in search results, did it even show up at all?

The point is: if there is nobody seeing the search result, then a META description is irrelevant. It only matters when the page is seen, because as already stated, they do not affect SEO, they only affect Click Through Rate.

Since pages are 98% unseen if they are not on Page 1 of search, then META Descriptions mainly only matter when the page shows up on Page 1 (or maybe Page 2) of search. Anything beyond Page 2 is unlikely to get seen, or get a click, and therefore the CTR is zero anyway and the META Description serves no real purpose.

So, the best engineered META Description is one that matches the best user queries where the web page lands on at least the top 20 search results.

By using data from Google Search Console, you can figure out which keywords will need to be in your META Description to increase the likelihood of Google keeping it there as written.

Just to make things interesting:

If you have already mastered how to get your META Description to show up for your most important Search Queries, try this.

Since Google is using content from the page for about 60-70% of all pages, why not write more parts of your content as if they are a META Description, within the context?

This is like writing more than one META Description without writing more than one for the code head where the META Description normally lives. It opens up more opportunities and may give your CTR even more of a boost.

To do this: white a (or some) short paragraph(s) that sums up a section of your page, using no more than 155 characters, and using the same format you would apply to your actual META Description, but for each example use a different core keyword phrase that you noted from checking your GSC data on which Search Terms the page got ranked in the top 20 for.

Circling back to the fact that Google uses content from your page when it’s a better match to the Search Query, by being in more explicit control of the format of that content could improve your CTR even when Google has swapped your META Description out.

Good luck with your SEO work.

Perry Bernard – SEO veteran.