Many website owners are noticing that their carefully crafted meta descriptions are no longer appearing in the search results on Google. Instead Google has taken snippets from the text or re-crafted your meta description by omitting words or adding in text.
This can be frustrating as the SERP snippet is often the first impression of a website. Therefore if a searcher is being shown something that doesn’t match up to what you want it to it is like putting an advert out in a newspaper to find that when it is published something completely different is shown.
Unfortunately there is not currently a lot that can be done to control what it shown in a snippet. Keeping to the 155 character limit will increase your chances and ensuring it matches your keywords and web content perfectly will also help.
However, there is currently no quick-fix for this problem. The changes to description snippets have come about as Google is starting to build its knowledge graph and is focussing on answering search queries, rather than simply matching keywords to websites.
For some queries a snippet will show that is far longer than the normal 155 character cut-off. For other queries, especially medical ones, a keyword will not appear at all in the snippet. For example, typing the name of an illness into Google will bring up a snippet that includes all the symptoms highlighted in bold, without mentioning the original illness.
The advent of the knowledge graph and the degeneration of meta descriptions is further evidence that successful SEO has to include content that answers questions. This means that a lot of emphasis has to be put on answering a specific question in the first paragraph and all content needs to be carefully crafted so any snippets that Google takes from the content of the page are appealing to the searcher.
There is no need to stop adding in meta descriptions, as they do still stand a good chance of being shown and it is a good way of emphasising your chosen keywords. However, only time will tell what Google’s plans are for them in the future and how much they will be used in the SERPs.