In the ever-evolving landscape of search engine optimization (SEO), it is crucial to stay up-to-date with the latest changes and updates from search engines like Google. One recent update that has caught the attention of SEO professionals is Google’s clarification on how its algorithm chooses search snippets. This clarification represents a significant shift in how meta descriptions are written and how content is optimized. In this article, we will delve into the details of Google’s updated snippet guidance and its implications for SEO.
What are Google Search Results Snippets?
Before we dive into the specifics of Google’s updated snippet guidance, let’s first understand what search snippets are. When you perform a search on Google, the search engine displays a webpage in the search engine results pages (SERPs) with a title, a URL breadcrumb, and a brief description of what the webpage is about. This description, known as a snippet, provides users with a concise overview of the content on the page.
Traditionally, snippets were derived from the meta description, a brief summary of the webpage’s content. However, this has changed over time, and Google’s recent update sheds light on the primary source of snippets.
Google Clarifies Snippet Guidance
Google recently updated its Search Central documentation to clarify the factors that influence its algorithm when choosing search snippets. The updated guidance emphasizes that the content of the page itself is the primary source of the snippet, while structured data and the meta description are not the main contributors.
According to Google’s official documentation, the snippet’s primary source is the page content itself. The update aims to correct the previous misconception that structured data and the meta description were the primary sources for snippets.
Changes in Google’s Snippet Documentation
To understand the impact of Google’s updated guidance, let’s compare the previous and current versions of the documentation. The previous version stated that Google uses various sources, including the meta description, to determine the appropriate snippet. It also mentioned that information found on the page and rich results based on markup and content could be used.
In the updated documentation, Google makes it clear that the page content is the main determinant of the snippet, while the meta description may be used if it describes the page better than other parts of the content. This change in wording removes the emphasis on meta descriptions and highlights the significance of page content.
Additionally, Google removed a paragraph from the previous version of the documentation, which discussed how site owners could suggest content for snippets through rich results and meta description tags. The updated version focuses solely on the creation of snippets from the page content itself and the limited use of meta description tags.
The Implications for SEO
Google’s clarification on snippet guidance has significant implications for SEO practices, particularly in relation to meta descriptions. Many online SEO guides have erroneously advised that optimizing meta descriptions involves using them as “advertising copy” and incorporating “target keywords” to attract clicks. However, this advice is outdated and incorrect.
Contrary to popular belief, adding keywords to the meta description is not crucial for ranking purposes. The primary purpose of a meta description is to accurately and concisely describe the webpage’s content. Google’s guidance aligns with the official meta description HTML specification, which outlines the meta description’s role as a free-form string that describes the page and its suitability for search engine directories.
Google advises that a meta description may be used to generate a snippet if it provides a more accurate description than the on-page content alone. It emphasizes the importance of informing and interesting users with a short, relevant summary of the page’s content. The use of a simile to describe meta descriptions as a pitch further emphasizes the need for an accurate and compelling representation of the webpage.
Takeaways from Google’s Updated Snippet Guidance
The updated snippet guidance from Google highlights two key takeaways for SEO professionals:
- Content is King: Google considers the page content itself as the primary source of the snippet. SEO efforts should focus on creating high-quality and informative content that accurately represents the webpage.
- Meta Descriptions Matter: While the meta description may not be the sole determinant of the snippet, it still plays a role in certain cases. SEO professionals should craft meta descriptions that provide an accurate and compelling summary of the webpage’s content, even if it means going beyond the limitations of the on-page content.
See first source: Search Engine Journal
What are Google Search Results Snippets?
Google Search Results Snippets are brief descriptions displayed in the search engine results pages (SERPs) that provide users with a concise overview of the content on a webpage. They typically include a title, a URL breadcrumb, and a brief description of the webpage’s content.
Why is Google’s clarification on snippet guidance important for SEO professionals?
Google’s clarification on snippet guidance is important because it impacts how SEO professionals write meta descriptions and optimize content. Understanding the factors that influence Google’s algorithm in choosing search snippets is crucial for effective SEO strategies.
What has Google clarified in its snippet guidance?
Google clarified that the primary source of search snippets is the content of the webpage itself, rather than structured data or the meta description. While the meta description may still be used in some cases, the emphasis is on the content.
How has Google’s snippet documentation changed?
In the updated documentation, Google has shifted the emphasis away from meta descriptions as the main source of snippets. The previous version mentioned various sources, including meta descriptions and rich results based on markup, while the updated version emphasizes the page content as the primary determinant.
What are the implications of Google’s snippet guidance for SEO practices?
Google’s guidance highlights the importance of creating high-quality and informative content that accurately represents the webpage. It also underscores the role of meta descriptions in providing accurate and compelling summaries of the content. SEO professionals should focus on content quality and crafting relevant meta descriptions.
Is it necessary to add keywords to meta descriptions for SEO purposes?
Google’s updated guidance suggests that adding keywords to meta descriptions solely for SEO ranking purposes is not crucial. Instead, the primary purpose of a meta description is to accurately describe the webpage’s content. Keywords may be used if they contribute to a more accurate description.
How should SEO professionals approach meta descriptions based on Google’s guidance?
SEO professionals should craft meta descriptions that provide accurate and compelling summaries of webpage content. The goal is to inform and interest users with a concise and relevant description. Meta descriptions should accurately represent the content, even if they go beyond the limitations of on-page content.
What is the key takeaway from Google’s updated snippet guidance for SEO professionals?
The key takeaway is that content remains the most critical factor for snippets. SEO professionals should prioritize creating high-quality content that accurately represents the webpage. While meta descriptions still matter, they should focus on providing accurate and compelling summaries.
Featured Image Credit: Photo by Christian Wiediger; Unsplash – Thank you!
Colin Hughes, a passionate wordsmith and digital raconteur. He ghostwrites for numerous websites that include travel, culture, and lifestyle content. When not traveling for work, he loves to spend his time at home with his husband and two border collies, Reggie and Tuesday.