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Behind the Scenes at Jungle Disk - Jekyll, SEO and What Not to Do

TL;DR

Maintaining a default global description for your site in your _config.yml file could yield a bad result in Google search results.

At Jungle Disk

We are huge fans of Jekyll - the simple, blog-aware static website generator. We use it for our retail site as well as for Cyber Talk Radio. It saves us lots of time and energy and also makes content updates and publishing easy and accessible to our entire team. Occasionally, however, we break things. The most remarkable example being how Google was displaying our search results using the meta description tag set in Jekyll’s _config.yml.

The default _config.yml file (v.3.3.1) contains the following; note the description variable:

...

title: Your awesome title
email: your-email@domain.com
description: > # this means to ignore newlines until "baseurl:"
  Write an awesome description for your new site here. You can edit this
  line in _config.yml. It will appear in your document head meta (for
  Google search results) and in your feed.xml site description.
baseurl: "" # the subpath of your site, e.g. /blog
url: "" # the base hostname & protocol for your site, e.g. http://example.com

...

Makes sense, right? Your pages get generated and in the header of each gets placed a helpful meta description tag. Google Search results will display for your users and prospective customers the description under the link to your website when it is relevant.

Not exactly.

We have since removed the description variable from Jekyll’s global settings. We have instead opted for using a different page description tag and modified our head.html template to include the following:

...
<meta name = 'description' content = 'TL;DR'>
...

Why?

Our best guess is the following … Google was noticing duplicate descriptions for different pages, e.g. Jekyll was applying the global description to each page. Google — not wanting to display the same description for multiple pages in its search results — then used a cached description tag from a much earlier version of our website (more embarrassing was that there was a misspelling in this description).

Our shame; ugh.

Image

TL;DR

Maintaining a default global description for your site in your _config.yml file could yield a bad result in Google search results as Google seems to not like different pages with the same meta description tag.

Similar to Papa John’s tagline: Better Google search results, better SEM.

Thanks, Mike

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