Google shows the wrong meta description for my site

With Yoast SEO and Yoast SEO Premium, you can craft excellent meta descriptions for your blog posts. But sometimes Google has a mind of its own. In some cases, it may decide to show a search result snippet that does not match what you’ve written. In this article, we list the possible causes of this issue.

NOTE: If you need help with titles, use this guide: Google shows wrong titles for my site.

Google decided to show a different meta description

The most common reason that Google shows a different meta description than the one you provided, is that they think that their snippet is better (for that search, for that user).

Google’s aim is to help users to get the right content to answer their questions, and to solve their problems. If your meta descriptions aren’t doing a good job of doing that, Google might show something different.

If Google decides to change, ignore, or show something other than your specified meta description, there’s unfortunately nothing that you can do about it. The best advice we can provide is to try different descriptions. This article provides advice on creating the right description for your site.

It’s worth considering why Google might ignore your description, though, and learning from that instead of fighting it. For example:

  • Perhaps your description is overly self-promotional, and talks about you (or your business), rather than describing what the page can do to help your audience?
  • Perhaps your description very generic, and not specific to the problems the page solves (this happens a lot with automatically generated meta descriptions)?
  • Perhaps the page might be relevant for multiple different keyphrases. Or different parts of that page might answer different questions, or solve different problems. That makes it hard to craft a ‘perfect’ meta description which is right for each of those users, in each of those situations. In these cases, a dynamic meta description generated by Google might be more helpful to users than a generic one.

Ultimately, you should consider the meta descriptions you write as a ‘hint’ for Google to use when they feels it’s appropriate. Often, however, they’ll tailor the results for specific users, searches and keyphrases, in ways which you can’t control. They do that because they believe it provides a better experience for their users.

Sometimes this same issue can happen with titles. Learn more about it here: Google shows wrong title for my site.

Technical reasons

Sometimes, Google may show a different meta description because of technical issues with your website.

The meta description tag is missing or broken

If your WordPress theme doesn’t follow best practice, or if you’re using plugins which alter the contents of the <head> code in your templates, then your meta description might be missing.

The HTML source code for your site should contain exactly one description meta tag. If the tag is missing, or if more than one appears, you may not see the preferred description in search engines. The tag should look like this:

<meta name="description" content="Preferred description goes here"/>

If you do not see a description meta tag, or if the tag looks ‘broken’, please follow the steps in this article.

If you have more than one description meta tag, please run a conflict check to determine what other feature on your site outputs the duplicate description(s).

A meta robots tag is disabling the meta description

If the page has a meta robots tag with a nosnippet value, or a max-length: 0 value, then search engines won’t show any meta description in the search results.

You can view the HTML source code of the page to check for a meta robots tag. It should look like this:

<meta name='robots' content='index, follow, max-image-preview:large, max-snippet:-1, max-video-preview:-1' />

You can control your robots tag via your meta robots advanced settings.

Google hasn’t seen your new description

If you’ve recently updated your description, Google might not have crawled the page, or updated their index with your content content. It can take time for Google to process the changes you made, depending on how frequently your website is crawled. If you’re concerned about crawl rates or speed, we have some advice in this article.

Search term manipulation

If you searched for SEARCH TERM, Google scans all indexed pages for the exact term or phrase. Google uses the search term to highlight information in search results which is why the meta description is different than what you entered into the plugin.

To see the meta description without search term manipulation, use the site: search operator followed immediately by the URL of your site. A search for all pages on example.com without search term manipulation would be site:example.com

site:example.com

Search engines ignored your preferred meta description

Ultimately search engines will, as you have seen, make the final decision on what they show in their search results. Due to this being handled on Google’s end, there is little you can do to force Google to display the preferred description. The best advice we can provide, unfortunately, is to try different descriptions. This article provides advice on creating the right description for your site.

If you do change your description, be sure to use the Inspect any URL tool in Google Search Console to update Google’s index with the new change.

Sometimes this same issue can happen with titles. Learn more about it here: Google shows wrong title for my site.