Did you know that you do have some control of the snippets that appear under your page’s link in Google SERPs? Snippets, or otherwise known as descriptions, can have a huge impact on whether an internet user clicks on your link in the SERPs.
A snippet of text appears under the blue links in a search engine’s list of results for a particular query, as seen in the image below.
Google uses a number of sources to generate snippets, such as page content, references to that page from other sites, the Open Directory Project and META description tag. Unfortunately we’ve even seen Google using menu lists and other navigational links as snippets, which looks unattractive. So you can see just how important in SEO to monitor your site’s snippets.
The snippet is usually taken from the description META tag embedded in the HTML document, but hidden from human visitors. Very often the keywords used in the original search will appear as bold letters in the URL and snippet. The description tag will take the form:
<META NAME=”description” CONTENT=”A small sentence of meaningful text that best describes the content and theme of the page” />
It’s important that you write a meaningful sentence and don’t keyword stuff descriptions because many canny search engine users will skip over a spammy looking description to a site ranked below yours if their snippet looks more relevant. A spammy description is unlikely to help improve your rankings, but it could hurt your click through rate.
Another consequence of having a spammy, keyword stuffed description is that a search engine can pick it up as being unhelpful and decide to build a snippet from text on the page. In other words you control over the displayed snippet. We’ve seen that this can also happen if you build a site with identical descriptions on every page.
It’s possible that if you duplicate spammy, meaningless descriptions (and titles), your site could lose a certain amount of “trust” in the search engines, so it’s important you pay attention to these tags.
There are many SEOs and web site owners that wouldn’t want Google to show snippets from the Open Directory Project. Good news is that Google (but not all search engines) supports a META tag that directs search engines to not use the Open Directory Project for snippets.
Remember that these META tags will only take affect once Google (or other search engines) crawls that page and refreshes their index.
Just add this META tag to your pages: <META NAME="ROBOTS" CONTENT="NOODP" />
Or to direct only Google’s Googlebot: <META NAME="GOOGLEBOT" CONTENT="NOODP" />
This article is based on a post by Vanessa Fox at Google Webmaster Central.
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