Google Search Result Snippets

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Google Search Result Snippets

One of the features Google introduced in early 2006 in order to enhance its user experience, was the addition of sitelinks below the snippet for the number one natural result. The snippet is the 2-line summary that appears along with the link to the website. Sitelinks are additional links to deeper pages or directories within the main site that is listed at number one for the search term. The image below shows an example of the snippets visitors see when searching for ‘MSN’ in Google:

Google sitelinks & snippets
(Image updated to reflect current sitelink appearance)

Criteria for Appearance of Google Search Result Snippets with Sitelinks

No one knows for sure how Google determines when to place snippets along with the number 1 listing. There are, however, numerous theories, all of which agree on following points:

  • The Google snippets are directly related to site traffic
  • Not all number 1 search listings are accompanied by snippets
  • Sites with traffic levels above a certain level are usually listed with snippets. This minimum level is not yet known, but will be posted on the Articles as soon as it is discovered.
  • Sites with high traffic might not include snippets in the listing if the most relevant page being served is not the homepage. E.g. searching for ‘Ford Mondeo’ in Google UK brings up www.ford.co.uk/mondeo at number one, without snippets, whereas searching for ‘Ford’ in Google.co.uk brings up www.ford.co.uk with the snippets.

How the Snippets Are Selected

The link text is taken directly from the <TITLE> tag of the web pageHTML.

The 2-line description snippet is usually taken directly from the Description Meta tag.

In cases where a suitable Description Meta tag is not provided, or it does not include the keywords searched for in the query, Google may use the description for the site provided in the Google Directory / DMOZ or snippets of text from within the main content on the page.

Google uses a number of methods to monitor visitor traffic from the search results on a website. The search engine programme collects site usage data by a variety of means including via Google Analytics, via cookies and via the Google toolbar. It then uses this data to understand how visitors use a site, which links and sub domains within the site are most popularly clicked by site visitors and which pages serve as the most common exit points.

The Google snippets’ sitelinks are usually the most popular links as determined by visitor usage. Google have also provided an update on the Webmaster Help Center that explains how sitelinks are selected to go with the snippets for the number 1 result:

How Google Compiles Sitelinks

Implications for Search Engine Marketing

Google snippets included sitelinks within the number one search result in order to allow users to get a taste of what the site offers, and reduce the number of clicks needed to reach their desired destination.

The inclusion of sitelinks within the snippets, though, has emphasized the number one position by presenting more links and giving the number one site listing more visibility on the search engine results pages (SERPs). This obviously happens at the expense of the remaining listings on the page, which subsequently get de-emphasized.

For search engine optimisation purposes, this implies that the number one position is now much more important than ever before. Contact us to find out how our search engine optimisation services could help your website reach number one on Google.