When it comes to SEO, professionals know that meta titles and descriptions have very little impact on your ranking. However, they can massively influence click-through rate on a SERPS (Search Engine Results Page). Click-through rate can have a significant impact on rankings of a website.
So there is nothing more frustrating than optimising these shop windows into your organic pages, only to find that when you view them in live SERPS pages they are not the same.
Today, we’ll give you 7 reasons why your meta title or meta description isn’t showing in Google search results.
We’ll show you why meta titles and meta descriptions are important for boosting click-through rates.
And you’ll learn how to increase the chances of your titles and descriptions showing correctly.
Let’s get into it:
What Are Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions?
Before we get into why your title and meta descriptions aren’t showing in Google, let’s recap what exactly meta titles and descriptions are.
A meta title is an HTML element that tells search engines and users what a page is about.
It appears in search results in blue text below the website name and URL.
Similarly, a meta description is an HTML element that briefly summarises the page content.
It appears in search engine results below the meta title in plain text.
Most content management systems (CMS) like WordPress or Hubspot allow you to edit your meta description directly in the HTML code or via a field in the settings.
Now that we’ve got that out the way, let’s look at why your title and description might not appear how you want them.
7 Reasons Why Your Meta Description isn’t Showing in Google Results
First things first:
Google will probably rewrite your meta description.
(Don’t take it personally).
A study of 30,000 keywords found that Google rewrites meta descriptions for pages over 70% of the time.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try!
You know your content best, and writing a well-optimised and engaging meta title and meta description could be the difference in getting a click.
There are 7 common reasons why your meta title or meta description isn’t appearing how you want it.
- Your meta title or meta description isn’t relevant to the search query.
- Your title or description isn’t the right length.
- Your meta title or description doesn’t reflect your page content.
- There are multiple instances of metadata in the HTML code.
- You forgot to include a specific meta title or meta description.
- A Robots tag is blocking your meta title and meta description.
- Google hasn’t crawled or re-crawled your page yet.
Let’s talk about each of these in more detail and how you might be able to change the outcome.
1. Your Meta Description Isn’t Relevant to the Search Query
As mentioned, Google rewrites meta descriptions a whopping 70% of the time.
And this is usually for a very good reason: Google thinks they know better.
Although you may not have planned for it, your webpage could be ranking for hundreds (or even thousands) of different keywords and variations.
While this is great for bringing traffic to your website, it means that it’s impossible to optimise your metadata for all of these queries.
So Google helps by re-writing your meta description to suit that query, usually by taking relevant text from the webpage.
In these circumstances, not much can be done to force Google to show your desired meta description.
However, the chances are that your meta description and title are still appearing for your focus term.
Portent (the company behind the meta-description research) found that the higher the search volume of a keyword, the less likely Google rewrites.
They noted that this is likely because SEOs and website editors prioritise writing the meta descriptions for terms with the highest volumes.
But what if you’ve created a meta description for a primary search term that still isn’t showing?
Well, the reasons below could be impacting your metadata.
2. Your Title or Description Isn’t the Right Length
There’s only so much room on a search engine results page (SERP).
And even less so for mobile.
So, Google has to limit the length of your meta titles and descriptions before cutting them off.
(Usually symbolised by three dots…)
Sometimes Google’s suggested meta description is also too long, so your best bet to increase the chances of a fully visible meta title and description is to write it to the correct length.
Google recommends meta titles between 50-60 characters with a pixel length no higher than 561. Meta descriptions should be between 50 and 155 characters, with a pixel length no higher than 985.
You can use online metawriting tools to see if your title and description will fit. I use this one from Search Wilderness.
3. Your Meta Title or Description Doesn’t Reflect Your Page Content
A big reason why your meta description might not be showing in Google search is that it doesn’t reflect your page content.
By not correctly explaining the content on your page, Google will likely re-write it to reflect your webpage better and show its value to a visitor.
This isn’t Google punishing you.
Instead, they’re trying to maximise the chances of you getting a click from a search query.
The best way to accurately reflect your page content in a meta description is to say what it is explicitly.
Brian Dean from Backlinko recommends a specific writing formula for showing a clear value proposition in your meta description.
“This is a [content overview]. Learn how to get [specific benefit] from this [content description].”
In practice, this could be:
“This is a complete guide to meta descriptions. Learn to improve rankings & ensure your meta description appears in search results with this in-depth blog.”
4. There Are Multiple Instances of Meta Data in the HTML Code
As the heading suggests, many SEOs can sometimes include multiple meta titles and meta description tags in the HTML code.
This can happen if your website theme isn’t optimised or a plug-in changes your templates’ <head> code.
There should only be one meta description tag in the HTML code.
So, if you’re troubleshooting potential problems, it’s a good idea to scout through your HTML code to ensure you just have one title and description tag.
If you’re not tech-savvy, popular plug-ins like Yoast can simplify editing meta titles and descriptions.
5. You Forgot to Include a Specific Meta Title or Meta Description
Forgetting to include a meta title or meta description is common.
When troubleshooting potential problems, just make sure you’ve actually submitted a meta title or description.
If you haven’t, Google will pick its own version from the text on your webpage.
6. Your Meta Title and Meta Description Are Being Blocked by a Robots Tag
A meta robots tag tells search engines how you’d like them to crawl and index parts of your webpage.
Examples can include follow and nofollow tags, which tell Google’s crawler to follow links or not.
But tags can also impact whether a search engine shows your meta description in the search results.
The “nosnippet” tag prevents search engines from showing text in the search results. While the “max-snippet” will set the maximum number of characters for a meta description to zero.
Check your HTML source code to see if a robots tag is blocking your metadata.
7. Google Hasn’t Crawled Your Page Yet
So, you’ve created a well-optimised meta title and meta description. But your meta description still isn’t showing.
If you recently updated your meta description, Google may still need to update their index and re-crawl your page.
Google crawlers usually crawl sites every three days to four weeks, depending on various factors.
You may need to wait until your website is crawled again to see your new meta title and description in action.
Why Are Optimised Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions Important?
Although meta titles are an important on-page SEO ranking factor, Google has confirmed meta descriptions aren’t.
So, why should you bother writing a good one?
They generate clicks.
Optimised metadata is essential for attracting users to your page by giving them a clear value proposition.
Backlinko researched 4 million Google search results and found that pages with a meta description had 5.8% more clicks.
But if you need any more convincing:
Google says so!
As recently as 2018, Google’s John Mueller took to Twitter to recommend writing your own meta description, saying, “You know your content best.”
And who are we to argue with Google?
How to Increase the Chances of Your Meta Titles & Descriptions Showing in Google Search Results
To summarise, you can take three main actions to ensure your meta description and title tag appear how you want them.
- Ensure your title tag and description are within the recommended length and pixel ranges.
- Use your description and title to describe your webpage accurately.
- Check the HTML code for any meta robots tags or multiple title and description tags that could prevent Google from accessing it properly.
But there are some additional steps you can take to make your meta title and meta description more effective at generating clicks.
- Odd numbers in titles can increase CTR by 20%. So, instead of writing a top 10 list, write a top 11.
- Titles with positive sentiment can improve CTR by 4%, e.g. using words like “best” and “coolest.”
- Put keywords in your meta description. It won’t help with SEO, but Google usually bolds terms that match a searcher’s query, helping to show them the relevance of your page.
If you want to talk to an SEO specialist and not a salesman, or if you want help attracting more organic traffic that will convert, then speak to Converted – we might just be the SEO Agency for you!
Why not check out some of our SEO work to see the results we can deliver for you?