Google’s Big Snippet Update

Tuesday, June 5th, 2018

Have you noticed how site descriptions on Google have increased in size lately? Instead of the usual two or three lines of text visible in the descriptions of the Search Engine Result Page (SERP), from around December 2017 some descriptions have increased to four or five lines.

What Is A Snippet?

Taking it back to basics, a “snippet” is a brief description of what each web page is about when displayed on a SERP.  The goal of a snippet is to assist the searcher in determining whether the page will be useful to them before clicking through to the site.  While previously the majority of Google’s snippets faced limits of around 160 characters, these recent changes have meant snippets can now be around 300 characters.

What Is A Rich Snippet?

A variation on the standard snippet, a “rich snippet” has the benefit of displaying an extra line or block of information.  This is designed to add value to the search result by displaying more specific relevant details including things like ratings, prices, products and stock levels.   Rich snippets require site operators to add extra code to their HTML with the intention that this will help Google better understand the page content and whether it is best suited to answer the search query.  

What Does This Mean For My Website?

You probably don’t need to make any major changes, but it’s worthwhile reviewing any changes that have occurred.  Google will build its own snippet for your site based on page content (often from the first sentence or paragraph), the meta description or other sources.

Two quick steps to consider:

  • Top Keywords. Check your site analytics for the top keywords bringing in your traffic, then type these into Google and see how your site now displays on the search engine result pages.  
  • Competitor Review.  Do you have SERP competitors with better snippets than you or could your snippet be improved?  If so, think about improving the first paragraph of text or extending your meta description.

Also, keep these guidelines in mind:

  • Be Unique. Using the same title or description or first paragraph text for multiple pages is not helpful and can harm readability.  Each page should have a unique meta description.
  • Be Descriptive. Descriptive page titles and meta tags will always be beneficial in determining relevance to a searcher, it is important to continue to use descriptive and concise terms.
  • Stick To The Limits. For page titles anything over 60 characters is likely to get cut off and for meta descriptions aim for between 200 and 300 characters.
  • No Keyword Stuffing. Using the same word multiple times or over use of keywords in your title or meta description is not helpful and will likely result in being penalised.
  • Consider The Format. Meta descriptions do not have to follow a standard sentence format.  For example, simply listing key points could be a better SERP option.

Want to dig around more on how your site displays on Google’s SERP? The ‘Search Appearance’ page in Google’s Search Console Help provides a useful HTML Improvements Report that lists pages where Google has detected issues with titles, meta descriptions and non-indexable content.

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Mark started working in the Internet industry in 1994. He went on to startup New Zealand Tourism Online, Avatar and other companies. Mark enjoys meeting with clients and strategising online marketing solutions.

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