Brevity is the soul of wit – Oscar Wilde
A surprising number of people, and indeed some surprising people, are now using Twitter to give status reports on what is happening in their corner of the universe. The strict imposition of no more than 140 characters and spaces seems to concentrate the mind most effectively. Tweats are of course produced by human writers. Twitter can certainly be rated a success.
Google snippets are those short pieces of text that appear under each item in a Google Search Engine Report Page (SERP). They too have a strict limit of 155 characters and spaces, just a little more than a Twitter tweat. Google snippets are produced by computers. Perhaps it’s time for Google to re-examine its snippets reasoning, because it is questionable how successful it is.
If you believed the Google documentation, you might believe that Web page Descriptions would be a key summary of the content of Web pages in their keyword search results:
We frequently prefer to display meta descriptions of pages (when available) because it gives users a clear idea of the URL’s content. This directs them to good results faster and reduces the click-and-backtrack behavior that frustrates visitors and inflates web traffic metrics.
They even go so far as to encourage you to Improve snippets with a meta description makeover:
The quality of your snippet — the short text preview we display for each web result — can have a direct impact on the chances of your site being clicked (i.e. the amount of traffic Google sends your way). We use a number of strategies for selecting snippets, and you can control one of them by writing an informative meta description for each URL.
In practice it doesn’t turn out exactly like that. You need to choose very carefully the exact words of your Descriptions if they are to be used at all, as you can see in (You Must) SEO Those Descriptions For More Google Visitors.
A post by William Slawski suggests why this is happening. It relates to Google’s fixation on inlinks to a Web page. So they may well Use Anchor Text to Determine the Relevance of a Web Page. In such a case, perhaps they wish to justify their reasoning by including it in the Snippet they construct to show the item is Relevant. Bill’s advice if this is affecting your Google appearances runs as follows:
If you run a web site, you may have visitors coming to your pages based upon the content anchor text in links pointing to your pages instead of the text upon your pages themselves. If the term is one that you want to be found for, you may want to consider adding some text to the page, if possible, using that query term, to provide a more persuasive snippet for the search results.
Perhaps if you put that persuasive language in the Description, it has a better chance of surviving that snippet creation process.
Standing well back, you might even question how customer-centric Google snippets are. Are they really the best way for searchers to find what they’re looking for? Perhaps they are motivated by a wish to prove that some apparently obscure item should logically appear in the SERP. Why else would you add in text taken from other related Web pages? The resulting snippets often seem much more attractive to computers than to the human readers they are intended for.
So do Google snippets work for you? Would you like to see Google change how it helps you to find what you’re looking for? Perhaps your comments here could trigger some rethinking.
Related: How to Optimize your Search Engine Snippets – Michael D Jensen