Friday, March 27, 2009

Google Improves Search Result Descriptions

Google recently announced two changes in the way it shows search results – longer snippets and enhanced search refinements.

The official Google blog talks about the changes in detail, but let’s talk about the snippets here. A snippet is the few lines of text that appear under the dark blue title in the search results.

So how does Google choose the snippet for your page? The search engine chooses snippets from three sources:

- If the meta tag description of the page is relevant to the search query, Google uses the meta tag description for the snippet.
- Otherwise, Google combines the most relevant part(s) of the page and uses that text as the snippet.
- If for some reason, Google is not able to crawl your page, Google will try to use the description of your site found in the DMOZ directory.

Why does Google go through this much trouble? Well, choosing the right text to use to describe a page can be essential to how well the search engine delivers results.

Up until last week, the image below shows how Google used to display the snippets for any description. As you can see, the blurbs were limited to 155 characters.

With the new change, when you enter a longer query (one with more than three words) Google will increase the number of lines in the snippet to provide more information.

These longer snippets give more information about the sites and enable the searcher to decide which site(s) has all the information he/she is looking for.

Now that Google increases the snippet size for a page, is it better to stick with the old limitation of 155 characters when writing the meta description tag for a page or should you go beyond the limit? DBE recommends staying within the 155 character limit so that the text doesn’t get cut off when searchers use shorter queries. The objective is to create a description that would entice the searcher to click through to your site. In addition to keeping the snippet short and sweet, we recommend writing the meta description tag so it includes a mention of your targeted keyword and gives an accurate, compelling overview of what the page is about. A snippet from a well-written description tag can help you gain a higher click-through-rate and drive more conversions.

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