Google is all about personalisation. They want to customise content so that it’s most relevant to users. This is no different when it comes to search results, with Google establishing dynamic snippets based on your search query.
What is a snippet and what does this mean? You probably know it as a meta description – the text underneath a page’s URL in an organic search result. Ultimately, what Google is now doing is personalising these snippets to provide the most accurate results across both desktop and mobile.
A Google spokesperson recently told Search Engine Land that their aim is “to help people better understand how pages are relevant to their searches”.
— Search Engine Land (@sengineland) December 1, 2017
Are you confused? That’s ok, a lot of people are. Especially when they see some results come up that are between 200-300 characters, while other results are the conventional 160 characters as per the recommendation set out for meta descriptions.
In fact, Sistrix recently found that there are now more than 50% of search snippets showing up with three or more rows of text (on desktop). To put that in perspective, prior to December, 90% of meta descriptions were 165 characters or less (two rows).
As an example, we searched for the term “What is SEO”, and had two differing results show up in the SERP. In position #2, the result for Red Evolution shows 290 characters which comes from the content on the page. Meanwhile, in position #3, you can see that Google has shown Moz’s meta description, which is 153 characters.
How does Google determine what you’ll see in your search results?
Well, the meta description is dynamically generated based on two different factors – what you are searching for and what the most relevant content is.
The search term that you put in plays a major role, as Google will pick up on the keywords, scour through your site and look for the most relevant pieces of content across two sources:
- Your meta description as optimised in your HTML code
- The copy on the web page (that refers to the search term)
The result shown is whichever of these Google deems to be more relevant to the search term. Sometimes, it could even potentially be a mix of both.
What does this mean for SEO agencies?
It certainly changes things up, both from a user experience point-of-view and the way in which we are structuring the content.
Now that there is more text coming up in the SERP, there’s more scrolling involved and the likelihood of lower results to get less traffic/clicks. Not to mention a potential impact on click-through rates altogether, considering this change provides users with the opportunity to get the answer they’re searching for without even clicking through to a page.
For SEO companies, Google has previously encouraged us to stick to a 160-character limit for meta descriptions. Whilst there is an urge to alter these to longer lengths, Google still recommends to maintain 160 characters. And it’s still not advised to just stuff your content full of keywords. Therefore, it becomes even more crucial to ensure your meta descriptions are well written, extremely relevant to the content on the page and provide an accurate answer to the search terms you’re targeting.