Google’s updated SERP snippet length: What should be your SEO strategy now?

Google’s updated SERP snippet length: What should be your SEO strategy now?

March 9, 2018 3:04 pm

On December 1st, 2017, Barry Schwartz reported on Search Engine Land that Google had formally confirmed a change to the way it shows textual content snippets in Google’s Search Engine Outcomes Pages (SERPs).

Barry wrote,

“A Google spokesperson informed us: ‘We just lately made a change to offer extra descriptive and helpful snippets, to assist individuals higher perceive how pages are related to their searches. This resulted in snippets turning into barely longer, on common.’

These snippets are the blurbs of textual content displayed in Google’s SERPs together with the clickable blue textual content and the web page URL.

A fast Google search corroborates this – let’s use the question “how have been the pyramids constructed” for instance:

Within the screenshot above, you possibly can see that the place Google would beforehand show a snippet roughly one hundred fifty-one hundred sixty five characters lengthy together with areas (give or take, you'll be able to see it varies now and it assorted earlier than Google made the change too), however now they’re for much longer.

The textual content snippet Google exhibits within the SERP is *supposed* to be (extra on this later) the contents of the meta description tag within the HTML of the web page – let’s verify every of those web page’s precise meta descriptions and their lengths.

Right here they're, in the identical order as above:

  • There are not any pictures of the pyramid being constructed, and the engineers didn’t depart detailed blueprints. [Length:109]
  • The traditional Egyptians who constructed the pyramids might have been capable of transfer large stones by transporting them over moist sand. [Length:122]
  • No meta description specified within the HTML
  • No meta description specified within the HTML
  • Right here’s all the things you have to know concerning the unimaginable Egyptian pyramids. [Length:74]

Two issues bounce out immediately.

  1. Google just isn't displaying the web page’s precise meta description because the SERP snippet for these particular listings for this particular question, even when the meta description is specified within the HTML, however as an alternative is being pulled instantly from the textual content that seems at or close to the highest of the web page.
  2. The size of the snippets is longer than the size that Google beforehand displayed, congruent with Google’s affirmation that they’re displaying longer SERP snippets.

Right here’s how that breaks down for the above question, once more in the identical order because the SERP itemizing screenshot above:

  • The primary sentence of the textual content is used because the SERP snippet
  • The primary sentence of the textual content is used because the SERP snippet
  • The H1 web page headline, adopted by ellipses ( … ), adopted by the second, third, and fourth sentences on the web page within the first paragraph (skipping the primary sentence within the first paragraph) are used because the SERP snippet.
  • The primary and second sentences, and a part of the third, are used because the SERP snippet
  • The primary and second sentences, the picture ALT attribute (or the picture caption, they’re each the identical textual content), plus textual content by way of HTML code related to the picture, “Getty – Contributor” (<div class=”article__credit”>Getty – Contributor</div>)

Checking various different queries returned comparable observations about what Google is utilizing because the SERP snippet, however observe that some SERP snippets have been certainly taken from the precise meta description.

For instance, within the SERP for a question for musician “Todd Rundgren”, this SERP snippet is clearly taken instantly from the meta description:

For a lot of different queries I carried out, each business and non-business in question intent, it turned up a mixture of SERP snippet sources – primarily both textual content on the web page or the precise meta description specified within the HTML, and in some instances by way of picture ALT attribute, and infrequently from another little bit of code within the HTML.

On cellular units, the SERP snippets have been very comparable, in lots of instances the identical as on desktop.

The SERP orders have been barely totally different, so sure, there’s going to be rating variations based mostly on numerous elements (it’s well-known that Google can and can alter the SERPs you see based mostly in your search historical past, geo-location, question sort, your earlier interplay with SERPs, and so on.).

Nevertheless, the general scheme of the SERP snippets remained fixed – textual content was taken principally from both the primary paragraph of the web page, or the meta description, and in some instances the picture ALT attribute, and infrequently from different textual content within the HTML code.

Dr. Pete Meyers over at Moz carried out analysis late final yr on 89,909 web page-one natural outcomes.

Pete famous that the typical SERP snippet was 215 characters lengthy with the median size at 186, and he was fast to level out that, “massive numbers are probably skewing the typical. However, some snippets are very brief as a result of their Meta Descriptions are very brief”.

Pete additionally famous no vital variations between desktop and cellular snippet lengths, typically seeing cellular snippets longer than desktop snippets.

For positive the precise SERP snippet you see, and the size, will range by question sort.

What's going on right here?

Google is making an attempt to fulfill searchers.

Sure, historically the thought was that Google would pull the SERP snippet from the meta description, however for years now Google has been utilizing no matter textual content its algorithms decide makes probably the most sense based mostly on the consumer’s question.

Not all websites – for instance, Wikipedia and one other we noticed above – don’t even make use of the meta description tag within the HTML of their pages, so what’s a poor search engine to do in that case?

Equally, what if the meta description is badly written, or spammy-sounding with a lot of key phrase stuffing, or doesn’t properly-mirror the web page’s theme and matter(s)?

In order that’s what’s happening right here – Google advanced over time to make use of no matter it deems makes probably the most sense to a consumer performing a sure question.

Wait: What the heck is a meta description, anyway?

Meta descriptions are HTML code that Google understands, and that's meant to offer a synopsis of the web page.

Right here’s an instance:

<meta identify=”description” content material=”An outline of the web page” />

This code goes between the <head></head> tags of the HTML and isn't displayed on the seen content material that a consumer would see.

Do meta descriptions influence web optimization?

Meta descriptions won't impression rankings.

However, if Google does use a web page’s meta description because the SERP snippet, that may impression click on-by way of from the SERP.

That’s as a result of a properly-written meta description that's compelling, related to the web page, and related to the question or queries for which the web page is rating, can influence natural visitors.

And that may have a downstream impression on conversions (the specified actions you need website guests to take – fill out a type, purchase one thing, and so forth).

Poorly written meta descriptions, if used because the SERP snippet, can have the other impact and discourage the consumer to click on by way of to your web page, and as an alternative go to your rivals.

So, what must be your technique now that Google has elevated the SERP snippet size?

In abstract, you possibly can do any of the next:

  • Do nothing in any respect
  • Rewrite longer meta descriptions for all your pages
  • Rewrite longer meta descriptions for some of your pages (e.g. your prime ten or twenty natural touchdown pages, or some pages you identify have low click on-through charges)
  • Delete all of your meta descriptions
  • Audit your website’s content material to make sure that the primary textual content in your web page is compelling, makes use of key phrases congruent with how somebody would seek for your content material, guarantee the primary paragraph incorporates no less than 300-350 characters of textual content together with areas, and entrance-load the primary one hundred fifty characters in case google modifications again to shorter snippets sooner or later.

What you determine to do (or not do) will at the very least partially hinge upon assets you have got out there to make modifications.

Don’t take a “set it and overlook it” angle together with your website’s content material and your meta descriptions. It’s widespread for companies to place in a good quantity of labor into their website, then simply let it go stale.

An excellent suggestion right here can be to cycle via these things regularly – assume quarterly or a pair occasions per yr. As soon as per yr at a minimal.

Right here’s what I like to recommend

First, it ought to be apparent that your web page’s textual content material is for people to eat, and that ought to all the time be your main consideration.

You’ve heard the phrase “dance like nobody’s watching” – nicely, write like Google doesn’t exist. However Google does exist, and their mission is glad customers (so that folks proceed to make use of their service and click on on advertisements) – Google is chasing glad customers and so do you have to.

The chorus of “write nice content material” has been used advert nauseum. The one cause I’m mentioning the entire “write on your customers” factor is just because typically individuals focus totally on “how do I web optimization my pages?” as an alternative of “what’s good for my customers?”.

Okay, with that out of the best way and forefront in your thoughts, right here’s what I like to recommend. Modify this in response to your particular wants – your business, your customers – don’t simply take this as a cookie-cutter strategy.

And, do that on the time-frame that makes probably the most sense and works for you and the assets you've got out there to you to make modifications to your website. In the event you haven’t checked out your web page content material and meta descriptions in a yr or extra, then this can be a larger precedence for you than in case you refreshed all that 60 days in the past.

Meta descriptions

  • Make them about 300-320 characters lengthy, together with areas
  • Make the meta description tremendous-related to the web page textual content
  • Entrance-load the primary one hundred fifty-one hundred sixty five characters together with your most-compelling textual content – compelling to your customers who may see the textual content as a SERP snippet (simply in case Google decides to shorten them once more)
  • Use a name to motion if relevant, however don’t be a used automotive salesman about it – and as applicable, use motion-oriented language
  • Keep in mind WIIFM – what’s in it for me – as relevant, concentrate on advantages, not options
  • Don’t be misleading or make guarantees your web page content material can’t hold

Needless to say Google might not use your meta description because the SERP snippet and should as an alternative use content material out of your web page, possible from the primary paragraph.

With that in thoughts:

Assessment & refresh your content material

  • Make sure that the H1 web page headline is tremendous-related to the web page’s matter
  • Embrace a picture (as relevant) that's tremendous-related to the web page (not a type of dumb, tangentially-associated inventory pictures) and craft a superb and web page-related picture ALT attribute
  • Be sure that your opening paragraph is engaging and virtually forces the reader to maintain studying – that approach if it’s the textual content used because the SERP snippet, that may seize individuals’s consideration.


My abstract is that in case you when you haven’t already, please return and skim the entire article – I promise you it’ll be value it. However I'll add another piece right here and that's that ostensibly the kind of content material you’re creating goes to dictate the way you configure your meta descriptions, H1 web page headlines, and particularly the opening textual content on the web page.

In some instances, it is sensible to make use of the “the right way to feed a (Google) hummingbird” method the place you pose the subject’s query and reply it concisely on the prime of the web page, then defend that place, journalism fashion, in the remainder of the textual content beneath that.

Equally, you might be capturing for a SERP featured snippet and voice-assistant-system reply utilizing bullet factors or a numbered listing on the prime of your content material web page.

The purpose is, the rules and proposals I’ve offered for you right here usually are not a one-measurement-matches-all, cookie-cutter strategy to your meta descriptions and your content material. search engine optimisation expertise, switching your mind into the on place, and a willingness to check, observe, and modify are all obligatory to realize the most effective outcomes.

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