Marketing 3 min read

Mueller Explains Why Google Rewrites Meta Descriptions

Jeramey Lende / Shutterstock.com

Jeramey Lende / Shutterstock.com

Do you know that Google rewrites meta descriptions? Here's John Mueller's detailed explanation on why it happens and how to avoid it.

Google rewrites meta descriptions and many site owners and admins are still not sure why the search giant does it. So, Google’s top SEO specialist comes to the rescue.

Main Takeaways:

  • Your meta description is a summary of what your page content is all about.
  • Google rewrites meta descriptions if they are poorly written.
  • Branded queries may trigger a meta description rewrite.

It’s common knowledge that Google sometimes selects the relevant part of a page as a meta description. But, a publisher had a problem with the ones that the search engine displays for its home page.

The site owner had already implemented a meta description for the page. However, Google doesn’t display this meta description on the search result page.

Instead, it picks something entirely different. The publisher also pointed out that the meta description that the search engine doesn’t always make sense.

For example, searching for the company name plus the word “UK.” brings a bunch of nonsense, says the publisher. It’s just a collection of words from various parts of the page.

So, the site owner sought John Mueller‘s help via the Google Webmaster hangout.

The question reads:

“So I guess my question is because we have a lot of traffic that is coming up from branded searches… it is important for us to have the correct meta description showing up. What do we do to rectify the situation?”

Here’s Mueller’s response.

3 Reasons Why Google Rewrites Meta Descriptions

First, Mueller pointed out that it’s essential to have a description meta tag on the page. If you have that setup, here are other reasons Google rewrites meta descriptions.

1. Poor Use of Meta Descriptions

According to Mueller, Google can rewrite a meta description when it focuses more on keywords, and less on how the page is useful.

“Sometimes when we see a bunch of keywords that are just kind of collected in the meta description,” he said. “Then, that’s something that our systems might look at and say well; this doesn’t look that useful for users.”

So, the search engine rewrites the meta description to highlight the page’s relevance.

2. Matching Content with Query

The publisher said in the question that Google was rewriting the meta description when the branded queries featured the “UK” modifier. And that’s not surprising.

The “UK” search query modifier probably triggered the rewrite. Since the search engine was unable to match the content with the query, it most likely modified the description to increase its relevance.

“And most of the time, when it tries to rewrite something, it’s based on the content on the page itself,” says Mueller.

3. Meta Description Varies with Query

In the end, Mueller pointed out that the description can vary based on the query.

He then advised the publisher to ensure that the meta descriptions for the branded query are not spammy or overdone. Search engine users must find these descriptions “pretty useful.”

“And then go from there, essentially, to figure out… is this something where Google always gets it wrong?”

Or is it something where sometimes Google’s algorithms pick up something else on the page and get it wrong?”

Read More: Ranking on Search Result isn’t Always the Goal ~ J. Mueller

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