How to optimize Google Site Description / Results for News Plugin/ Discourse Site

I’m not a CSS expert/coder - Is there any easy way for me to have a better caption for Google Search results - for example the site description (or similar) from the “About Page”, for my discourse forum/News Plugin.

Here (below) is what it looks like right now - when I search on google for “rapamycin news”
and I would like a better top level textual description for the website before the list of posts:



Do you have your site description filled out under admin -> settings? That’s the text that Google typically displays under search results. Outside of making sure the relevant information is present, Google kind of decides on its own what to show there.


Google has some tips on how to write meta descriptions that they can understand:

Strangely - yes, I have all that information filled out in the settings - but it doesn’t get shown in google. I wonder if the News plugin somehow disables those settings or something.


Here is the strange thing - I have both areas filled out (and always have), but these fields
seem to be completely ignored by google and don’t show up in the google listing for the site:

Here are my inputs:

But still, in google, this is all they show:

Is it possible that ThePavillion’s News Plugin I use to make my site into a “blog” on the home page - causing problems for google?

I don’t know, but if there is not pure technical reason you are hitting the wall using term anti-aging drugs. It is quite controversial claim and Google has tendency clean such ones.


Ah - good point. I had not considered that. Let me play around with that.

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But when I search on google for “anti-aging” drugs - it doesn’t seem they are blocking the term or descriptions with the term - so I think this must be a technical issue…

Unless the plugin is preventing the description from appearing, then I wouldn’t expect that to be an issue. Even if you have all the correct information supplied, Google decides what is ultimately shown based on whatever their algorithm for descriptions is.

Even for Meta, instead of our supplied description… Google uses the content of our first pinned topic.

Screen Shot 2022-05-06 at 4.57.25 PM

I guess you can try experimenting? make some changes to the description and wait a few days to see if it shows up.


The current meta description, “Rapamycin and Anti-Aging Medicine Users’ Group Discussion Forum”, is probably too short. Google might be deciding that a preview of the table rows is more useful to users than the 63 characters of the meta description. The links I posted in my other comment have tips on how to optimize it.

That’s pretty interesting, because that text doesn’t appear in the bot view, but it seems like Google does use the bot view for some things, like the table rows in the rapamycin forum, and queries about this site like the one below. I wonder what makes them choose one view over the other.

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Manipulating Google is… hard.

If I’m looking for discourse meta, I get this:

Not exacly results of a forum — but you guys have done some tuning, I reckon.

If I’ll do same type search than OP for my forum, I get same result, but without News plugin:

  • my headache is tags showing as pure text after heading

That is not any bigger issue for me, because, as usual, the frontpage is less used when a search happends.

If I search a topic I know it exists, I get quite normal result in the form that is useful for an user:

  • the first hit is the most fresh fish (that was indexed fast, not bad)
  • second hit is description of that category

Anything of this is not helping OP, but I’m trying to make a guess where we just have to live with the fact where Google works mysterious ways.

And the most important thing is not what an admin wants or hopes, but an user gets what he/se/it needs. Or something.


I think the site needs more inbound links. Inbound links from trusted websites help tell Google that the site is important: “Everyone is talking about this site.” The more important the site is that is “talking” about you, the more “trust” that gets transferred to your site.

Google knows that if you type “discourse meta” that you’re definitely looking for this site. The more specific the query, the more certain Google can be that you’re looking for it, and the more it will push down other results:

Here’s a comparison of backlinks using this tool:

site domain rating backlinks referring domains
Discourse Meta 84 49,679 2,791
Rapamycin 2.5 140 39
Katiska Meta 21 0 0

Those kinds of signals can tell Google how confident it should be when displaying a site for a query.

I think the static table-row view probably means that Google doesn’t have enough data yet to sort pages by importance for that query, so it shows a summary of the table rows from Discourse’s bot-view.

The one I aim for in Google when using forums is this multiple topic list — I think it requires a lot of similar topics with good interlinking between them:

It seems that this is really a discourse problem / Bug - we are all getting the same issue and same results, and its hurting us all - in every single case, the site meta description is not being shown…

When I search on “meta discourse” - here is what I see:

and when I search on “Meta KATISKA” - same thing:

and of course - for Rapamycin news its also the same:

of course - its an even bigger issue for me because Discourse is my entire site - not just a subdirectory for the forum, off a main website or Wordpress install.

@sam this seems to be a huge issue for anyone who wants to use a Discourse install as a stand-alone website.

I disagree - we are all getting the same problematic results in google given the shortest natural search term - no matter how many backlinks we have… this tells me its a universal problem and something that Discourse needs to fix for all of us.

I’m not a software engineer - but this issue seems to be under Discourse’ control.

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The snippet there probably depends on the query and how confident Google is about what site you’re looking for. If your query is too broad, Google might not be sure exactly what you’re looking for.

The query “meta discourse” there doesn’t show an expanded view for this site, because it has another meaning, and Google isn’t sure which type of “meta discourse” you’re looking for. They show a preview of table rows from this site, and the rest of the page is about the philosophical term.

If you search “discourse meta”, then Google can tell that you’re definitely looking for this site, because there are no competing meanings.

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If there is a way to insert a paragraph of custom text above the table in the bot view, then Google might show that instead of the table rows, but a possible difficulty with that is that each page would need a different block of text, unless it were just done on the home page.


Yes - agreed, that slight tweaks to the search terms can result in different results - but the issue remains - for a large number of searches the text table results with no site description shows up for all or our sites, and its a major problem.

I naturally just search on “meta discourse” because thats what I think of when I want to get to the support forum. Others may search slightly differently.

if 25% to 50% or higher of searches give people the text table results - with no site information - this is a major issue for all discourse users…

In my case its even worse - whether someone searches on “rapamycin news” or “news rapamycin” they get the same text table results with no site description. And the randomness of the text table results (because its just picking up the list of recent post topic names) - means you have no idea what people will be seeing in the google search results from one day to the next.

I have to believe that this is something that Discourse would want to, and can fix given its prevalence, and how it will kill the click-through rate even though you may have a high page rank in google.

Backlinks isn’t that big thing. The most important thing looks to be how offered content of a site replys to personal history (search history, clicks). Meta Katiska is in top-5 search results in its niche. Backlinks are just another gateway to googlegot.

But these are different things:

  • what is ranking for a person
  • what does googe show as meta data
  • what is needed as meta for real user

I don’t value meta description much, or at all, but quote from real content is big deal. I know, both are technically same thing, but value for people is different.

But… the original question is not is something more important in the real world, but why basically same technical solution gives different endproduct. The answer is more or less because of Google AND how people act with search results.

Exactly - I think this is the type of simple solution that would solve the issue for everyone. What seems to be needed is an “alt” site description for the table view that google is generating.

Hey @BCHK :slight_smile:

No. The news plugin will not affect the content your website serves to Google’s crawlers.

As others have pointed out in different ways, it’s not really up to Discourse. Discourse provides a meta description tag, and yours is appearing in the head of as expected. It’s up to Google to decide what to do with that.

<meta name="description" content="Rapamycin and Anti-Aging Medicine Users&#39; Group Discussion Forum">

The key word here is “might”. As @j127 pointed out, the text Google displays under your search result is relative to both what is searched, and other variables that Google decides are important. Trying to reverse engineer the Google algorithm to achieve a specific kind search result display is a rabbit hole. The only way to reasonably approach this from a technical perspective is to stick to the meta tag standards, which is what Discourse does.

I understand that you think that it would be better to display the site description, but do you have any reason to think that showing the site description is better for SEO and user conversion than showing a list of recent topics?

In short, Google’s algorithm has decided that it’s better to show the latest topic list instead of the site’s meta description. Both are there in your markup and it’s made a decision in favor of the topic list. You think this is the wrong decision. Fair enough, but Discourse has provided all the relevant data. The rest is up to Google.

If you really wanted to lean into this approach, you could create a Discourse plugin which removes the structured topic list data that Discourse provides to search engines. This would make it much more likely that Google would show your site’s meta description. However, unless you had a really good reason to think this was better, I wouldn’t advise it.