Do Google Snippets Work Better Than Twitter?

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

Will Google Start Marketing?

Marketing often gets a bad rap. It sometimes is described as ways of manipulating customers so that they buy products they don’t really need. Surely Google’s Do No Evil would not prevent them marketing. Let’s be clear: the existence of bad drivers doesn’t mean we should all give up driving. Equally the existence of bad marketers doesn’t mean Google should give up on marketing.

Marketing in its most useful sense is the process whereby suppliers determine the true needs of their customers. They then use that information to satisfy those needs in the best way possible. Done correctly, marketing can create win/win situations for both suppliers and their customers. It’s all about being customer-centric rather than product-driven.

That’s not to say that product-driven companies like Microsoft or Google do not produce good products. Apply enough money and talent and good products should result. However they will not be as appropriate as they could be to meet customer needs if customers aren’t part of the dialogue.

That dialogue process can be very well served by the blogging process if senior management is self-confident enough to allow it. Of course the Titanic cannot turn on a dime. A huge organization does not change culture in months but rather in years. CRM Magazine suggests how it can be done in an article: A New Marketing Medium – Blogging allows marketers to start conversations with prospects and customers. See how they describe the effect on Microsoft:

Robert Scoble was blogging about Microsoft independently and the company, rather than shutting him down, recognized him as an authoritative voice, which gave him the freedom to be effective. “Blogging is the best relationship-building device I’ve ever seen. It lets Microsoft have a human face other than Bill’s [Gates] and Steve’s [Balmer], but it also gives customers a way to find people who are working on a product,” Scoble says. “In the old world you didn’t know anyone important would read your feedback. [Now,] product managers use it to gauge how important a new feature will be. It’s a new way to get feedback. I’ve had a lot of people say it’s changed their view of Microsoft and how evil we are.”

Contrast that with the somewhat surprising Google decision to close down Google Answers recently as described by David Sarokin, one of the researchers, as described in an article, “Google Answers is Dead! Long Live Google Answers!“, which appears in today’s issue of the Free Pint Newsletters. An extract shows his view of what happened.

Google made a mistake
It all comes back to marketing. I believe the market for Answer-style services is huge. ..

So what was the problem with Google Answers. People ready and willing to pay for reliable information simply didn’t know where to turn to obtain it. Everyone knew how to ‘Google’, but hardly anyone knew how to ‘Google Answers’. And for some inexplicable reason, Google made it increasingly more difficult to find GA. The service seemed doomed by its own invisibility.

Google may possibly be a very open community within the walls of the Googleplex. However there is very limited dialogue with its customers and prospects. Now even Googlers are questioning this wall of silence. Nathan Weinberg discusses the problem in a recent post, Can Google Get More Bloggers In 2007? Time Magazine nominated You (that is all of us) as the Person of the Year in 2006. It shouldn’t be a hard sell to persuade Google to talk to the Person of the Year.