A previous post discussed the importance of Google snippets in bringing visitors to your Web pages. It is of course important to rank towards the top or even #1 on a Google keyword Search Engine Report Page (SERP). However if the Google snippets for the items at #2 or #3 are much more engaging then perhaps the searcher will click there instead.
The creation of those Google snippets is an entirely automatic process. In other words it’s a computer-generated snippet. Google does try to help you to get better snippets. Matt Cutts has even made a short video about snippets (just over 8 minutes) – tip of the hat to Kathryn Katz. A key element in getting good snippets is the description meta tag. There is an interesting discussion currently going on in the Cre8asite Forums about that. One most useful piece of advice from Ron Carnell is to have a sentence of not more than 155 characters and spaces in that meta tag. Since this is the length of a typical Google snippet, then it is highly likely that your engaging sentence will be used as the snippet.
That was true until about four days ago. Suddenly there has been a switch in the automatic snippet creation process, at least for blog posts. It is not yet universal for all blog posts but seems to occur for ones that frequently come up in keyword searches. Here is an example:
The snippet for such blog posts now starts with the date of the post displayed in the language of the searcher. In English this uses up about 17 characters of the snippet including the ellipsis (…). Since the total length is still 155 characters and spaces, this leaves only 138 characters and spaces for you to write that engaging sentence.
It’s still early days so whether this change will be applied to all blog posts or will remain a permanent feature for Google is still in question. Yahoo! and MSN/Live still seem to be working with the longer 155 characters snippets. Anyone with a WordPress blog who uses the All-in-one-SEOpack plugin is faced with a dilemma. It suggests that descriptions should not be longer than 160 characters, but that number should now perhaps be reduced.