I see a lot of misunderstandings of the “noodp” found in meta tags with name “robots”.
<meta name=”robots” content=”noodp” />
Not all content values for a meta robots HTML tag are bad. Most robots content values do not block search engines from indexing pages. The noodp is one of those examples.
The equivalent to the above meta tag would be…
<meta name="robots" content="index, follow, noodp"/>
It is implied that by not stating “noindex, nofollow” that the page in question is to be indexed and followed.
What does noodp mean in a robots meta tag?
You are telling search engines to NEVER use the description for your webpage from the Open Directory Project, www.dmoz.org.
When you do not have “noodp” set it is up to the search engine to decide to use your meta description, snippets from your page, or the description from the Open Directory Project.
If your webpage is not listed in the Open Directory Project, then this tag does not matter.
If your webpage is listed on the Open Directory Project, including this tag guarantees that search engines will not use the directory’s description over your meta description or content from your webpage.
More than likely the search engine will use your meta description or snippets from your page over the Open Directory Project’s description, but search engines in the past and more than likely will into the future arbitrary decide which description is better and use it.
By including the “noodp” value for your meta robots tag, you are guaranteeing that the description the search engine uses will more than likely (but not guaranteed) come from your meta description tag or from content from within the page itself.
More Details on noodp and the Open Directory Project
Please continue reading if the above triggered more questions.
What is the Open Directory Project
The Open Directory Project is a website that manages a directory of websites open to the public. Anyone can submit a website to the open directory and anyone can use the open directory, including individuals, businesses and search engines. Directory volunteers maintain the directory.
Why you may not want Open Directory Project website descriptions
You may not have wrote the description! It is possible that an editor wrote a description for your webpage and that description may not be correct, flattering, or have the message you are trying to say for your webpage.
Who uses the Open Directory Project webpage descriptions?
Search engines like Google and Microsoft’s Bing can! If your page is in the Open Directory Project’s database, search engines like Google’s may use the description from the directory rather than yours if it thinks it is a better description for the search at hand.
Don’t believe me? Take a look at the post Review your page titles and snippets from Google on the subject, they clearly state they can use the description from the Open Directory Project.
Why does Google use descriptions from the Open Directory Project?
The descriptions are written by a 3rd party to describe the page in question. This is useful for a search engine if it is looking to provide a description to the search user that is the most relevant.
I would personally call the Open Directory Project descriptions a good alternative to guessing a page description. Maybe the description is better than the one on your website, or at least the search algorithm thinks that. What ever the reason, maybe its a good thing but for those of us who spend a lot of time writing our descriptions, in general this is not desirable.
Is this a widespread problem?
Not really, for the most part it’s an exception. For a blogger, more than likely this may only be an issue once or twice for older blog posts that were submitted to the Open Directory Project over the years. Static pages and homepages however are more susceptible to being listed on the Open Directory Project, thus opening the possibility of these descriptions being used in search results rather than your descriptions.
Why doesn’t search engines always use my meta descriptions?
Good question, I do not have a good answer for that one. Moz.com has a good write up on why Google will not use meta descriptions as well as Yoast’s details on My meta descriptions aren’t showing up in the search result pages which may be helpful.
My theory though is it comes to what’s best for the search. If the search someone made is very specific, perhaps a snippet from the meat of my page is better as a description than my page’s description. I will leave it up to Google to decide that.
Why do I always use noodp robots tag
Insurance! This eliminates the possibility of a description from the Open Directory Project being used as my description in search results. Referring to Google’s post linked above, this means that Google will now either use my meta description or create rich snippets based on markup in them page itself.