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.
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.
It happens the same to me at my site www.elforoviajero.com 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.
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.
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
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:
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.
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…
Edit: I tested again in a private Safari window (the others were Firefox), and the Discourse site moved up from #2 to #1 with the table view. I also tested again with a clean Firefox container tab (no cookies) and different VPN location and see it at #1 there too. There isn’t complete control over Google there, but it’s looking much better so far due to the changes to the title and meta description. I’d make a note of the time you changed it and you can see if it affects click-through rates in Google Search Console and traffic in Google Analytics. It might take a few days to settle.
If you want to see what Google sees, install this extension in Firefox and set the user-agent to Googlebot. (Be sure to set the user-agent back to normal afterwards, otherwise you’ll get blocked by many websites.)
I think it’s better that way though, because when you get the table-row view in Google, it looks like your site is really active, sometimes with 100+ replies and thousands of views on topics.