The impact of Longer Snippets on SEO

by Peter Young on December 28, 2008 · 3 comments

Browing the SERPs this morning whilst searching for some bargains for the Wii, I noticed a more widespread use of extended snippets, within many of the results presented.

Exended Snippets within SERPS

Exended Snippets within SERPS

Two things strike me, firstly this may indicate a move a shift from Google’s perspective, perhaps away from the usage of the description tag for descriptions on results pages. Google tends to take its description for the results pages from three main sources namely:

  1. The Meta Description Tag – many sites optimise this for circa 160 characters
  2. Content from the page itself
  3. DMoz Directory – however this practise appears much less common if not obselete.

Certainly as mentioned above, the further utilisation of page content for the results snippet may not be beyond the realms of possibility given that Google already determines importance and priority for the usage on Sitelinks. However there is no doubting that the top two (namely the meta description and the page content), hold higher traction in terms of usage.

These changes albeit small could however impact significantly on user behaviour. I remember seeing a panel moderated by Jon Myers at SES 2008 – where an organisation called BunnyFoot were presenting their findings (based on eye-tracking) on the blended search pages (which were reasonably new at the time) and it was suggested that these blended search pages were acting as landing pages in their own right, with people spending longer on the SERP’s page, prior to clickthrough. Such actions mean browsers are spending more time assessing their results prior to choosing a site, and thus any signals to a potential customer at these early stages are important.

I would suggest a similar example is the case here. Certainly the extended snippets give SEO marketeers/webmasters more resource in terms of provoking interest and encouraging clickthrough beyond the previous remit of circa 160 characters – particular as these results become more optimised in their own right – which the vast majority currently aren’t.

Certainly the use of longer snippets still appears to be in testing phase – with results sporadic. However given Google’s recent flurry of new ‘improvements’ , one can’t discount that this may become more mainstream in the coming months.

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