You may have noticed from your day-to-day Googles that the snippets in search results have increased in size. But not all of them, just some of them. Why? Because Google has changed the way that they populate their snippets in search results.
Why has Google changed their snippets?
For one simple reason; to make it even easier for users to find the information that they are looking for. Google summed up the reason for the changes pretty comprehensively themselves. Here’s what Search Engine Land was told when they received *confirmation from Google about these changes;
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.
So, what have they changed exactly?
Size isn’t everything. Or, is it now?
Whilst it is a well-known fact that size isn’t everything, Google does seem to think that bigger is better now. With regards to snippets that is, obviously.
The old character limit for snippets was 160; that now appears to have been doubled. So, Google has now got a whopping 320 characters to play around with in your snippets. And yes, I do mean that Google has got them to play around with, not you. I’ll explain in a mo. But first…
If you read our post which answers the question ‘What is a Meta Description‘, you will know that we do like a jelly-themed example. So, we thought we would show you the difference that extra 160 characters can make; using jelly related searches. Of course.
Which one would you click on?
“We might use your meta. We might not.”
If Google could speak to you, that’s probably what they would now say to you after every time you provide them with a meta description.
The most significant outcome of the changes to snippets is the fact that Google now chooses whether or not to show your meta description. Before December 2017, if you were to create a meta description for your web page, Google would display it in the snippet. And that was that. But now, Google takes the user’s search query and asks the question, “Is this meta description really providing the information that the user is looking for? Or, is there some other content on that page that would be better suited to the user’s search?” The answer to this question will determine what they display in the snippet.
So, Google will now show what they want to show in search results snippets. If they like your meta description and believe that it provides the user with the information that they are looking for, then they will use it. On the other hand, if Google feels like your meta description isn’t exactly what the user is looking for, but there is some other content on your page that’s ideal, then it’s unlikely that they will use all/any of your meta in the snippet.
You can’t beat a good statistic
It won’t be news to anyone when we say that Google is becoming more intelligent every year. So, it’s hardly surprising that they are now using their sophisticated crawler to show users the most relevant snippet possible.
That’s not to say, however, that providing a meta description is pointless. There were some really interesting statistics that emerged from **research conducted by Moz just before Christmas. They looked at just over 70,000 search results that had meta descriptions and here’s what they found:
- In 35.9% of cases, Google displayed the meta description exactly as provided;
- In 51.3% of cases, Google either displayed the original meta description as provided or served up the original meta description and added more text to it;
- Finally, in 54.5% of cases, Google either displayed the entire meta description provided or a shortened version of it.
It is also worth bearing in mind that the 54.5% doesn’t account for instances where Google has chopped and changed the original meta description. So, the actual percentage of cases where Google used various parts of the original meta description in the snippet, could be significantly higher.
The long and short of it…
Basically, when Google are populating their snippets now, they could use all of your meta description. They may just show parts of your meta description. Alternatively, they could show none of it at all!