The META Description & Google Search Engine Snippet

Mar 27, 2008 • 7:06 am | comments (4) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under SEO - Search Engine Optimization

One of the oldest questions in the search engine optimization practice is on the META description. The META description is this little tag you include in the header file, that provides a machine readable short summary of your page. Many search engines including Google, Yahoo, & Live Search use the META description in one way or an other. Here is a screen capture of what our META description looks like within the source code of a page:

META Description

A Cre8asite Forums thread has a recent discussion that probes into the META description and how it impacts the search engine snippet. The search engine snippet is the piece of content found directly under the blue hyperlink of the search results listings. Here is the search engine snippet in Google for a search on search engine roundtable:

search engine snippet

Yes, in this case it matches my META description but not always. If you search for barry schwartz you get this alternative description for this site:

Search Engine Snippet

Google and most engines, try to match the content of your search and then apply a more contextually relevant snippet to your query. In the case of "barry schwartz," Google noticed that "barry" and "schwartz" were both not mentioned in the META description, so it proceeded to look for content on the page that matched. What it found was the word "barry" in the little links under each post, in the alt and title tag text:

Search Engine Snippet

Ron Carnell, Cre8asite Forums Administrator, makes an interesting observation, which seems to be true:

In every single instance in my experience, putting the search terms in a meta-description sentence resulted in THAT sentence being used in the snippet as soon as the page was crawled. Every instance.

Got that?

Anyway, the forum thread also touches on topics such as why a search engine doesn't use anchor text when developing a search snippet? It also asks how we, webmasters, would want to extend the META description. I love Cre8asite Forum Modertor, EGOL's response:

Looking forward... maybe some day search engines will be able to pass query information to websites. If a person searches for "Bluenote Widgets" perhaps the search engine could pass those words to my website and there would be an easy to install tool that make them appear in highlight on my page... or maybe the link to my page would dropdown to the occurrence of those words on my page. These links could be tiny icons beneath the snippet. Searchers would click them if they want the highlighting or the dropdown anchor.

EGOL's first answer is a lot like how the Google Co-Op works to allow webmasters to trigger certain search results for trusted searchers:

Google Co-op

By the way, do subscribe to our Google coop subscriber links.

Forum discussion at Cre8asite Forums.

Previous story: Daily Search Forum Recap: March 26, 2008


Loren Baker

03/27/2008 12:21 pm

Excellent post Barry. I can see many of your readers transforming this into a powerpoint presentation for their clients :)

chris boggs

03/27/2008 12:48 pm

Thanks Barry for creating a nice template for our future responses to clients on this question. Very nicely and succinctly answered. Must Sphinn this.


03/28/2008 02:27 am

>>If a person searches for "Bluenote Widgets" perhaps the search engine could pass those words to my website and there would be an easy to install tool that make them appear in highlight on my page... there's a browser called that already does that. Its well annoying. Google toolbar has that facility too but you need to click on a button for it to highlight. You just need to check whether the find on page option is enabled in the options.


04/17/2012 06:03 am

I've notice yesterday some keyword with Anchor text on meta description, anyone else?

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