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  • Google Test: Multiple Meta Descriptions Work as Expected, Social Search Does Not

    A few weeks ago Shark SEO posted an intriguing experiment about multiple meta descriptions. To be more exact, he experimented with adding more than one meta description into a single meta description tag.

    One or more actual meta descriptions would exceed the meta description display character limit of approx. 165 characters. Why would you want to do it? Well, usually search users are seeking more than one aspect of your site or service. Thus it would be an advantage to serve all of them the perfect meta description.

    Expanding on this concept, I wanted to test whether you can add more than one or multiple meta description tags.

    I wondered whether Google would accept more than one meta description tag. Also, I wanted to find out which one it would take – the first one?

    In the test performed by Shark SEO, both descriptions contained in one tag could be triggered to appear in the search snippet depending on the keyphrase used in the search query. Would it be the case here as well?

    To test, I used three different meta descriptions of the same length each. I also added a unique series of characters and digits to the page. This combination did not appear in the Google index before the test. I made sure that the text appearing on the page itself did not match the meta descriptions, and that at least one unique term did appear in each description.

    So what did I find out?

    • Only the first meta description gets shown
    • Some of the words contained in the first meta description will get highlighted
    • Terms contained only in the meta description won’t show up in search

    So it’s everything as expected. The outcome does not contradict what we know or what Google has said for years.

    1. Google ignores the additional meta description tags. There is no way to make them appear in search results.
    2. Even the first one that gets indexed does not appear in the search results beyond the search snippet.
    3. It’s not a ranking factor. So in a way you can’t even say it’s indexed. Google is just aware of it but it doesn’t count.

     

    Google Social Search

    On the other hand I was quite surprised about the way (Google) social search does work or not.

    I tweeted the links from my “power account” and expected it to get indexed immediately these days. What happened instead?

    It took Google several minutes or maybe even a quarter of an hour; I didn’t check every minute to find it and it only showed up in “social search” results, not in regular Google results:

    OK, I expected that the link would get indexed a bit later, but instead it not only didn’t, but it even vanished from my social search results as well after approx. a day.

    After a week I gave up, and as the page still wasn’t in the main Google index I tweeted it again, and this time I asked for retweets from my followers. A few of them, I think five exactly because no tool has counted them, helped and retweeted it. After that, the URL appeared instantly in the main Google index, not just in the social search results.

    So you need at least a bunch of retweets to get indexed by Google if your link solely appeared on Twitter, as was the case here. There may be a few reasons why my first link wasn’t used to index it at once:

    • Google knows that I’m the proprietor and webmaster of onreact.com, so they don’t count my own Twitter mention of it.
    • Google does not consider my Twitter account to be reliable and authoritative enough to show up new pages in Google results.
    • Google has a “first link does not count” rule when it comes to indexation of pages mentioned on Twitter, no matter who tweets it.

    To be honest all three options sound realistic, but I’d rather expect a more complex combination of all three and some additional factors to play a role here. Nonetheless, the outcome is clear: just tweeting a link once is not necessarily enough for the page to appear in Google’s results.

     

    Twitter people search

    It’s also worth mentioning that neither Bing nor Ask have been able to index the page at all. Even Twitter can’t find, it while at the same time some of the users who tweeted show up in the people search for the unique phrase.

    So the good old link is still important when it comes to indexation. Don’t rely solely on tweets to succeed in search engines.

    Visit http://onreact.com/mmdst1.html to take a look at the page I used for this SEO test.

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    ABOUT THE AUTHOR
    I help people with blogs, social media & search. I help you succeed on the Web. I've been online publishing for 15 years. I started back in 1997.

    9 Responses to “Google Test: Multiple Meta Descriptions Work as Expected, Social Search Does Not”

    1. Serge Pon says:

      Tad,
      I was surprised with your experiment; I would like to add that I have something similar from what you have done. My client’s website page had two Meta description tags (by coder mistake), so Google ignored both of them.

    2. Shark SEO says:

      Hi guys,

      Thanks for the mention! I also tested having two meta description tags and found that Google only took the first one. @Serge – Google didn’t find the first meta description relevant enough to display? (Or thought the text on the page was more useful).

    3. Shark SEO says:

      @Serge – Sorry, meant to say “Maybe Google didn’t find the first meta description relevant enough to display?”

    4. I found your Twitter test very interesting. It would be nice to know if G (already) gives more credit to retweets by authors with many followers, or by authors with many tweets, or by authors with few regular tweets, etc., or just counts how many times the tweet has been retweeted (without further investigation on the retweet author).
      The same test with different test strings pointing to 1 single page (personalized SERP desabled): with more / less / famous retweet authors etc. Then compare the SERP.

    5. I didn’t know about this:

      Google has a “first link does not count” rule when it comes to indexation of pages mentioned on Twitter, no matter who tweets it.

      Thanks and the rest of the article is pretty interesting too. What makes your twitter account more “authoritative” if you know?

    6. Tad Chef says:

      Serge: I’m not sure the situation with your client was teh same as in my test. Maybe the two descriptions were just duplicates? Or you mean something else by “ignore”. Google ignores the meta description as a raking factor but does display it.

      Shark: You’re welcome! It was a delight to see that even with ages old page elements like the meta description there is some room for SEO improvement left.

      Regine: As far as I understand Google is considering all of these factors. The more I was surprised that my link didn’t get indexed at first as I’m a power user according to most metrics.

      Oscar: That’s just my guess or rather it’s just one of my guesses. There might be such a rule but I can’t prove it.

    7. [...] Google Test: Multiple Meta Descriptions Work as Expected – SE Optimise [...]

    8. mustafaaydemir.org says:

      Google Test: Multiple Meta Descriptions Work as Expected, Social Search Does Not | SEOptimise…

      One or more actual meta descriptions would exceed the meta description display character limit of approx. 165 characters. Why would you want to do it? Well, usually search users are seeking more than one aspect of your site or service. Thus it would be…

    9. Stellan Herr says:

      Really nice testing here and interesting article Tad! If you want to get content indexed almost immediately, you should use Google+ for it – if you`re account is authoritative enough of course…
      @Oscar: Take a look at tools like Followerwonk to get an idea of twitter authority ;-)

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