Snippets changing at search results
At SERPs, Search engine results pages, the dark blue title (and link to site) of results is followed by a few lines of text. This is called snippet.
Usually the text you place at the meta description tag is what Google shows there when your page appear at SERPs. This factor is got a moderate importance but we have to pay attention to it, of course.
Having unique meta description for every page tells search engines somehow that we care about the quality of our site and how our pages are presented at their SERPs. The purpose of snippet is double:
- Inform, give the user a short descriptive idea of what the page is about
- Convince, make them clicking at the link leading to your page and not at the competence ones. A short call to action that helps tilting the balance in your favour
Snippets in practice
Quite easy, the text at your meta description tags goes to SEPRs. Writing good meta descriptions is an art but this is another story.
If the meta tag is empty Google will try to get something relevant to show, selecting a piece of the body text, DMOZ data if any, whatever. Matt Cutts explains how this goes here (sound is awful and promoting the shops selling the worst coffee in the world is a crime but Interesting video anyway).
No 100% control, sometimes bad sometimes good
They recognise to be making changes from time to time to improve this specific part of their service, Google result pages search refinements they say.
This is the description of one of the pages at this blog:
<meta name="description" content="Useless lines before content in Html are wasting time for search engines to evaluate the relevancy of your site. Keep them to minimum and happy indexing!" />
This is how it should be displayed at SERPs
but this is the real one actually
Why this difference?
Google does not trust meta descriptions 100% and is always trying to improve them doing its stuff. In this case article date is placed at the beginning of the snippet and put away part of my text :(
Interesting what big G says about:
The meta description doesn't just have to be in sentence format; it's also a great place to include structured data about the page. For example, news or blog postings can list the author, date of publication, or by line information. This can give potential visitors very relevant information that might not be displayed in the snippet otherwise.
The result in my opinion is worst, date is not important here but here they go and they have the right to do it.
Second reason is html code on page. Check this snapshot for this page at Google's cache:
From top to bottom the date is before the content and it is recognised as a date so my code is helping to make it worst I guess.
Two things I am going to do. First tweak the code of my blog to make the relevant text appear first in html order and second, change the removed part of meta description attempting to make it more attractive for Google. Let's see what happen.
Dynamic changes in snippets
I saw at Analytics someone arrived to this blog searching for 'google site verification html file versus meta tag which is better' so I performed the same search and this is how it appeared at SERPS
Words of the query appear on the page by highlighting them in bold is not new but notice that text snippet is completely changed for better matching the query what is very kind from Google. This behaviour was announced at googleblog a moth ago.
In conclusion, monitor your site snippets and take the required actions to keep them as attractive as possible.
Can you write meta descriptions at your CMS?
Along all my years programming websites I've been gutting as a surgeon as many open source CMSs as possible and as SEO consultant I review for customers their CMS in every project to check how ready are to easy working SEO aspects and recommending changes to improve them.
Find and install the required plugins or extensions for your preferred content management system to make your life easy while working fundamental aspects of SEO on page.
As I build my own CMSs here is an illustrative screen shot of the SEO part of it and how it is integrated with the rest editing options.
A SERPs simulator is integrated what makes it very easy and obvious specially for customers not knowing the importance of it all.