In December, Google’s Danny Sullivan dropped big news for the SEO community: snippets on Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs) have gone the way of Twitter and grown longer.
For some, this news was met with confusion, others, perhaps horror at the thought of having to rewrite so many meta descriptions, and the rest with the same dismissive sigh they give every change to Google.
This one, though, might be worth sitting up and paying attention to, there are going to be some big winners and big losers at the end of it. These Google SERP changes might actually impact your business in a big way.
What’s Going on With Google Snippets?
First of all, if you’re not sure what a snippet is, it’s that little blurb of text that appears with your site name in the Google search results.
You probably have a copywriter write these to your meta description best practices, including a limit of about 160 characters. They have to say enough to both explain what the reader will find and convince them to click right then. Snippets are tiny paragraphs with great big impact.
So you can imagine that when the Google meta description length changes, pretty much everything else is going to change. According to research by Search Engine Land, the average snippet is now 230 characters, but Moz found some that were as long as 273 characters. That gives you a lot more room to say whatever you would, or you’d think, anyway.
Google’s Getting Smarter, Again
Sullivan stated very clearly that SEO managers weren’t to expand their meta descriptions to meet these new character lengths allowed on Google. This is because what’s now happening is a dynamic process. In essence, Google is reading your page, deciding what’s the best information to display to the searcher and snipping that out of your page to present on the SERPs.
That doesn’t mean you need to stop writing meta descriptions, just that if Google sees a better summary of your page for that visitor, it will choose something different.
Think about that for a minute. Google is going to help you position your page better for random visitors. It’s flexing its artificial intelligence muscle again, by trying to understand what’s on your page, versus what the inquiry is so it can provide the right information. It’s mind-boggling. It’s also a little big dangerous and unpredictable if you’re relying on organic search.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Smarter Snippets
There’s nothing inherently wrong with Google getting smarter and making life easier for users. It being able to recognize quality content and real web pages has gone a long way to reduce the number of bad pages that come up in search.
However, this longer, smarter snippet situation is one with many sides:
- The Good: Your snippets are longer, which makes your page show up more prominently in search. You’re not going to necessarily be jammed in with a bunch of other results on a list that sometimes feels like it runs together. Also, your visitors can potentially get their question answered without having to click through your page.
- The Bad: For one, the user may get their answers without having to click on your page. Also, with larger listings on the page comes fewer listings per page and listings further down the page being pushed even further down the page. This could be potentially very bad for organic SEO.
- The Ugly: The elephant in the room, the AI behind the snippet generation. Although AI has done a lot to help marketers, it can also behave unpredictably, especially if it happens to be an algorithm that can learn on its own. Google didn’t really explain how it chooses the snippet from the page, leaving everyone kind of hanging. Is there a way to overwrite the snippet? What does a site owner do if Google is plucking inappropriate snippets? So little information and so many questions.
Google’s Longer, Smarter Snippets a Winner
Overall, the change to Google SERP snippets will probably prove to be a real winner for both marketer and user.
Not only will the user get a better and more dynamic search experience, the digital marketer may find that the traffic to their site improves in quality, even if quantity drops. After all, you can’t eat clicks. What you need are calls, processed credit cards and appointments.