The latest on search results snippets

Google is once again refining how website content can be presented on its search pages, in this instance, by affording a site owner the luxury of customising their SERP previewed content how they see fit.

Before this change, the option to customise your own preview content was simply not an option. Google had kindly dealt with this on our behalf by generating search snippets that aligned to the query submitted by the user and the device they used to do so. This was Google’s way of assisting the users’ navigational process. Thanks Google.

This latest update will, of course, present SEOs and website owners with both opportunities and difficulties. It had been the case that the only choice we had at our disposal was to allow a textual snippet or not. The latest rollout allows for multiple methods, with a set of four robots meta tags to be used as standalone or combined in unison and a HTML attribute that dictates what part of the page is not to be shown within the textual snippet. So, should you wish to conceal a surprise that can only be seen by visiting the page, now you can!

This is the existing option:

  • “nosnippet” Specify that you don’t want any textual snippet shown for this page

These are the new controls:

  • “max-snippet:[number]” Specify a maximum text-length, in characters, of a snippet for your page
  • “max-video-preview:[number]” Specify a maximum duration in seconds of an animated video preview
  • “max-image-preview:[setting]” Specify a maximum size of image preview to be shown for images on this page, using either “none”, “standard”, or “large”

And this is the new data-nosnippet HTML attribute (AKA the most famous magician ever to live!):

  • <span data-nosnippet>Harry Houdini</span>

Google is offering the new features to provide a more accurate and efficient experience for users. This is no doubt coupled with testing and feedback which has revealed that the AI-controlled snippet is simply, not quite accurate enough. By handing the onus to the website owner, in theory, accuracy should increase and improve click-through rates.

On the face of it, it certainly seems like a selfless move by Google, as it was announced on the Webmaster Central Blog:
“We recognize that site owners may wish to independently adjust the extent of their preview content in search results. To make it easier for individual websites to define how much or which text should be available for snippeting and the extent to which other media should be included in their previews, we’re now introducing several new settings for webmasters.”

This update is a move towards a more efficient and seamless experience for the user, by allowing site owners to tailor to their needs through conscientious curation of relevant content that they deem is of the most benefit to show users in a search result snippet. The changes are, according to Google, likely to come into effect in mid-to-late October.

Google has confirmed that these new settings will not make a difference to search rankings. Not that any self-respecting digital content writer wouldn’t be taking into consideration the SEO-friendly keywords that are advantageous for user engagement, but this change does emphasise their importance. You need to make sure your content is researched in the first place, as always, but you now also need to choose and test the correct snippet content to keep that click-through rate healthy!

Written by:

Ben Young SEO Analyst


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