All You Really Need to Know About Google Snippets

26 Jul, 2018

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Google's meta description & snippet changes

Since the end of 2017, it has been observed that what were previously two explanatory lines on the pages and subpages, in Google's SERP, briefly increased to up to 230 characters, but are now back to an average of 163. The content of this snippet can either be your meta description, part of it, or information pulled from the content of your website. This variation is very useful for the users' experience but makes it even trickier for SEO experts to know which information will be displayed. In fact, there is no evidence supporting that it is necessary to change the descriptions of a website, as Google may also take other information depending on what it deems most informative. Whether content from the website or the meta description is displayed is just to benefit the users, making their search as smooth and efficient as possible. 

Should anything be changed in response to this update?

At the moment, it is not a good idea to be alarmed and start changing settings or metadata drastically. As we have seen, the average length of the snippet and where its content comes from are constantly changing, so it is not certain that the time invested in updating a website will have a positive impact on its positioning. The fact that this new behavior has changed recently causes doubt that this new practice has come to stay. It would appear that Google is testing different options, so updating isn't necessary at the moment.

There is however no set length for meta descriptions anymore, so it would not be unreasonable to expand them a little, possibly improving how people view your website. Generally, for a website, it would be ideal to have meta descriptions of between 160 and 320 characters. There of course is no guarantee that your meta description will be used in your Google snippet, that is why it's more important than ever to have quality content throughout a website.  

If you don't want Google to create any snippet at all for your website, you can use the <meta name="nosnippet"> tag, this way there will be no snippet displayed for your page results. We recommend caution when doing this though, the snippet can be a powerful tool to draw the users' attention to your website and make them more likely to click on it over your competitors. 

The disruption caused by Google changes

Each thing that Google improves in their search engine is there for one reason, to better the user experience. In the future, there are a few things that can be expected to change following these updates to meta descriptions/snippets. No matter how much Google changes, there are always a few tips that can improve the quality of your snippets:

•Make sure that each page has its own unique and appropriate meta description.

 Include details relevant to the content, not necessarily in sentence format. For example, the author of a blog entry, the illustrator/artist of an image, dimensions of a product.

•If your website is database-driven, consider using a program to automatically generate your meta descriptions. This simplifies the process for you and makes the information consistent throughout the website.

In the end, every change that Google implements is a bomb going off among SEO experts. However, the fact that there is something new does not always mean that it must be followed to the letter. The issue of meta descriptions is a sensitive and developing one. Therefore, it would not be surprising if in the coming months we hear about new developments in this area, and even a new way of proceeding to obtain the first positions in Google appears.

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