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

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.


Google is known to use the meta description completely at its own discretion. It’s not clear when and where they’ll use it, and for what search queries.

and how you show up in SERP’s is also something that changes depending on how the algorithm is feeling.

Are there any hacks that we could do to not show the structured topic list data / table format that I’m seeing - perhaps a robots.txt hack that would block them from showing just the table view - thus effectively forcing them to the meta description / regular view.

So frustrating… your site is about the same size / activity as mine - but you have the better SEO view… I think part of it might be the fact that you have discourse in a subdirectory… for me its the main site.

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Perhaps but I have a long way to go =)

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Your meta description is almost definitely too short. Try changing it to something that is 150+ characters long and that aligns with the searcher’s intent. (Google will truncate it if it goes much beyond that.) I posted some links on optimizing the meta description in my first post above.

Then go to Google Search Console and put the homepage URL of your site into the “inspect URL” box at the top. You can request re-indexing there. Wait a couple of weeks and then check the search results again.

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It happens the same to me at my site since 3 years ago. I tried changing the description a few times, reindex, write to Google, write here…and still I get this awful view when changing for my forum’s name.

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I’m trying to underline the point we can’t manipulate Google, not easily anyway.

This I showed earlier:

  • no meta-description, just three the newest topics

This I got when I was using porn in cognito mode:

  • meta-description is there, but not topic-list

And as somekind reference when using my phone and Google knew me:

So, it changes depending size of screen and if Google had guessing what I’m typically looking for.

That means it is more or less waste of time to try understand what, when, where and why. If a site has

  • sitemap
  • meta data as it should
  • googlebot has access

there is not too much to do.

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By “we” you mean the managers of the discourse-based site, I think. And that may be true.

I’m still not convinced, given the size of this problem for every single discourse site that there isn’t an easy fix by the Discourse Engineering Team - to simply insert the site description (or a new version of this just for the table view) - just below the Site Name (and just above the Table data).

The simple fact is that google is showing a version of our site that I would really prefer not be available to Google at all, to be honest - because its so uncompelling from an interaction standpoint.

I’m sure that Discourse could do some quick A/B testing with some user base to see the different clickthrough rates for the current google table view search result, vs. one with the full meta description, etc.

I have to believe we are getting killed in search results because of this issue.

Exactly! This is a big problem for all of us.

Actually everyone who is driven anykind site. Most of SEO consultants are… well, I’ll try to be pollite, so I say only: they aren’t offering what they are selling :wink:

Well, my forum is really high in my niche.

Of course they can. But they aren’t at same position as I am or you are. It comes directly from size and amount of google searches.

I am defenetly not A/B, but only another individual, but I rarely click any results that is not showing what I’m looking for. And meta description rarely fullfil that demand. So what such A/B testing actually shows — happy users or forcing to click to find if there is usefull info?

I wonder if making a sticky topic would give some control over it. It might lock that text in the top row in the table.

I can see why people might want to customize the display there, but I personally don’t think it looks bad. Just for the sake of exploring another possibility, it might even be that the table-row view is better than a meta description in some cases.

It looks like a site gets only 98 pixels of vertical space when it shows the meta description:

But it gets 165 pixels of vertical space when it shows the table-row view, pushing down competing sites:

(Checked in Firefox with the zoom reset to zero.)

In either case, it looks like Google picked up this longer meta description already, so it should be possible to optimize the meta description in a way that causes Google to display it:

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I’m not talking about page rank and where we show in the list of results, I’m talking about getting “killed” in terms of click through rates based on the table format view that gets shown to people… because I can’t believe that it performs well compared to a listing with the full site description.

That is an interesting point.

Another thing I find strange and frustrating is that google is showing the list of topics from my “uncategorized” list of topics, and not the topics that I show on the home page (the /news topics)… which are the personally chosen and highlighted news posts for the site…

In theory there is a sticky topic already - the “welcome to site” post that Discourse shows for all new, and unregistered visitors, which describes the site etc…

But for some reason Google ignores that post.

Yes - as a temporary fix, I will try a sticky post that might work as a google “site description” lacking our real site description.

Its funny - you can get a search result that shows the new longer meta description for my site, but I can’t get it - even in incognito mode, even when I try different web browsers…

Did you see the screenshot in my post above? Your new meta description is already working: