Short Meta Descriptions Can Kill Your Website

Traffic Drop

If you look at the graph above you will see the nice steady growth of a website. Then suddenly a drop! The site in question dropped from an average of over 100 unique visitors per day down to less than 5 per day. Quite a significant drop! Once I was sure the drop was going to stick, I made a few minor changes and then just left the site alone for a long time. Yes, I was disappointed, but it was not something I had time or ambition to address at the time.

Note: you will see on the chart short regain of traffic, but this seems to be a normal “blip” that can happen as rankings are sorted out across Google data centers.

Fast forward a month or so, and I am looking in through the webmaster tools, and happen to notice the HTML suggestions section under Diagnostics. There I see a line that says: “Short meta descriptions x,xxx”, which is just about every single page of the site. Immediately I fix the problem with the meta descriptions.

The Google Word on Meta Descriptions

Within two days, the traffic is already starting to climb backup again after staying flat for over a month.

My theory is that when the site was new Google eagerly indexed the site and it rose in the rankings, as time went on it got a deeper “analysis” by Google, and thus the problems caused the site to drop way down in the rankings. I am keeping my fingers crossed that the site will continue to climb and eventually gain back the traffic it once had.

30 Day Update

Meta Descriptions Fixed

My corrections have made a very big difference. On Dec 22 when I wrote this post, Google’s webmaster tools showed 1,873 short meta descriptions. That number has slowly been dropping over the last 30 days. Now today Jan 24 that number stands at 473. Yesterday I got a big surprise when checking stats, traffic was right back where it was before the drop. Now I will have to see this sustained for at least a week or so to really feel that it is back for good. But it all looks very encouraging.

Keep a sharp eye on the webmaster tools, it is your best peek at how Google is analyzing and viewing your website.