Google Confirms Planned Increase to SERP Snippet Length

Peter Roesler, President - Web Marketing Pros

By Peter Roesler

President, Web Marketing Pros

Google-HQ-2017Despite the many different forms of digital advertising and marketing available, most visits to a website still begin with an online search. With so many pages to choose from on any given search, it’s important to make the most of the little bit of information that will be shown on the search results page to capture the attention of searcher. That task may get just a little easier, as Google has confirmed they will start lengthening search snippets.

A snippet is the brief summary of a link’s content that shows under URL on search results pages. These snippets can be set up in the website, or Google will automatically generate a snippet based on the first lines of content on the page.

These snippets are very important, because for many viewers, this brief description can be the deciding factor for whether or not they click a link they see in the search results. Because of their importance, many website owner were pleased to hear rumors that Google seemed to be lengthening snippets over the past few weeks.

Confirming the change in a statement to Search Engine Land, a Google spokesperson stated, “We recently made a change to provide more descriptive and useful snippets, to help people better understand how pages are relevant to their searches. This resulted in snippets becoming slightly longer, on average.”

While the confirmation by the Google rep makes the change official, Google hasn’t specified exactly what is happening and how website owners should react. Some indication can be gleaned by data collected by RankRanger, who has been tracking these as well. They found that since the week of Nov. 20th, the average snippet length has grown from 160 characters to almost 230 characters on average.

This may not seem like a big change at first, but anyone who has used Twitter since their expanded Tweet length knows that you can say a lot more when you have more space to work with. Just getting an extra sentence or two into the description may be what it takes to sway searchers to click.

However, it is somewhat less clear how website owners should act in light of this new change. It’s true that snippets can be set in the website, but there is some benefit in letting Google dynamically generate a snippet based on the query. Many people have probably noticed that when they do a search, sometimes, the snippet includes the portion of the content that contain the search terms.

A dynamically created snippet is more likely to relevant to the searcher than the generic description of the page’s content most website owners write for a snippet. A page with a lot of information on it can’t encompass all of it into a single, one-size-fits-all snippet. Dynamic snippets allow for the search query to determine the snippet shown, which can help users understand why they should try a certain link in the search results.

Website owners should also be wary of increasing the size of their snippets in the meta data. Until Google formally announces a new policy on snippets, it’s best to stay in line with the current guidelines for snippet length. We have seen some idea where the character limit might be, but until it’s set in stone, webmasters should avoid major changes. Writing snippets for 230 characters only to have Google set it at 200 when they’re done testing can leave websites with truncated snippets that don’t convey enough information in the portion the reader can see.

Long story short, longer snippets will be a boon to businesses that use SEO marketing and make it easier for consumers to find the sites they’re looking for. Keep an eye on for when Google makes the formal change and be prepared to adjust your site accordingly.

For more recent news about changes to Google, read this article on updates to Google’s local services suggestions.

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