Literally, snippet means clipping or fragment: it is therefore a part that synthesizes a whole, that serves as an appetizer and that serves to give the push to deepen the topic. In the system of the Search, the snippets are exactly previews of the content that the user can find on the classified Web pages from Google and that they would have to answer to the intent that has guided its query: between the most famous and important, in terms of attraction of click, there are titles and meta descriptions, and it is to them that the new documentation of Mountain View is dedicated, which offers guidelines and best practices to manage and control how these snippets appear in Search.

New documents on Google snippets

Continuing the work of updating the support documentation for those who manage sites and SEO – and after the contributions on best practices for eCommerce sites or on HTTP status codes, network problems and DNS errors – and also following the recent change in the way the search engine displays titles among SERPs, now the Google team tries to meet requests for clarification related to the control of what Google shows in search results for the title and description of the positioned result.

To be precise, two new documents now appear in the English language which were previously treated in an aggregated manner:

What changes among Google definitions

Most of the contents in the two pages are not new, and the main difference lies in the fact that now the information is published on two separate pages.

Esempio di Title link, titolo in SERP

It is also very blatant the definition for titles: Google calls them title links, a new expression for the title of a search result. Also in this document on titles, you can now find more details on how the title link is generated and some examples of how Google can change this field.

What are the title links on Google

And so, the titles (SEO titles or title tags) are for Google title links, that is “the title of a search result on Google Search and other properties (for example, Google News) that links to the web page”. From the first lines of the guide it is reiterated that “Google uses a number of different sources to automatically determine the title link”, and that publishers can “indicate their preferences following the guidelines for writing descriptive <title> elements”.

Best practices to write effective titles

The document then goes on to list some of the best practices for writing descriptive <title> elements, an adjective that then takes centre stage in the search engine vision.

The titles, in fact, “are fundamental to provide users with a quick overview of the content of a result and why it is relevant to their query”, we read on the page; indeed, often “is the main information that people use to decide which result to click on”, which is why it is important to use a high quality textual title for our pages.

The tips to reach the goal are:

  • Specify a title in the <title> element for each page
  • Write a descriptive and concise text for our <title>, avoiding making some mistakes with the titles, such as texts too vague or too long (which could be truncated when displayed in search results).
  • Avoid keyword stuffing (which can make spam results seem to Google and users).
  • Avoid repeated text or boilerplate in <title> elements (since they do not offer very informative text).
  • Mark the titles concisely.
  • Be careful about using the rules with instructions related to snippets for search engine crawlers.

Titles and Google: how title links are generated

New is also the paragraph that briefly explains how the generation of titles works on the page of Google Search results, object as mentioned in a recent intervention.

This operation is “fully automated“, we read in the document, “and takes into account both the content of a page and the references to it displayed on the Web”: the objective of the title link is in fact “to better represent and describe each result“.

The Google Search system uses some sources to automatically determine links to titles:

  • Content in <title> elements.
  • Visually main title or headline shown on a page.
  • Header elements, such as <h1> elements.
  • Other large and relevant content through the use of style treatments.
  • Other text contained in the page.
  • Anchor texts on the page.
  • Text within links pointing to the page.

The Google guide specifies that the search engine “cannot manually edit title links for individual sites“, but always tries to make them as relevant as possible. In general, the change of the title set – and, therefore, the appearance in SERP of a page title other than the <title> element – is necessary when Google detects a problem with that element.

Snippets and meta descriptions, Google’s indications

The second supporting document is called “control your snippets in search results” and focuses primarily on the definition of snippets; in that sense, the Google snippet is “the description or summary part of the search result on Google Search and other properties (e.g., Google News)”.

Esempio di meta description, snippet nella Ricerca Google

In general, this page examines how snippets are created, analyzes the differences between multimedia results and tags of meta descriptions, explains how to block snippets or adjust their length and defines the best practices for creating meta descriptions.

As for the titles, clarifies immediately that the actual appearance in the search results of snippets set by those who own or manage the site could be different, but also that Google can not manually edit snippets for individual sites, while working to ensure that they are always as relevant as possible.

How snippets are created

Google snippets are created automatically by the content of the page and are used to emphasize and preview the content of the page that best refers to the specific search of a user. That’s why Google Search “might show different fragments for different searches”.

According to the guide, site owners have two main ways to suggest content for snippets created by Google:

  • Rich Results: by adding structured data to the site we can help Google understand the page, such as a review, a recipe, an activity or an event.
  • Meta description tags: Google “sometimes” uses the content of <meta> tags to generate snippets, if it thinks “they provide users with a more accurate description of what can be taken directly from the page content”.

Rules to manage, block or limit snippets

The supporting document then reminds us that we can prevent the creation and display of snippets for our site in search results or communicate to Google the maximum length that we want to show for our snippets. It is sufficient to use the nosnippet meta tag robots if we want to prevent the visualization of snippets among SERPs; max-snippet:[number] for the maximum length of the snippets; data-nosnippet to prevent that parts of the page are shown in a snippet.

Best practices for the creation of quality meta descriptions

As said, Google does not guarantee 100% that it will use the meta description for the page set by the site, but there are some tips that we can follow to increase the chances that in the SERP just appears the tag <meta name=”description”> as snippets in search results.

The goal is always to try to provide users with a more accurate description than would be possible exclusively by the content of the page, because the meta description generally “informs and interests users with a brief summary relevant to the topic of a particular page”. We must therefore think of them as “a presentation that convinces the user that the page is exactly what he is looking for“; moreover, according to the document “there is no limit to the length of a meta description, but the snippet is truncated in Google Search results as needed, typically to fit the width of the device“.

From a practical point of view, to avoid errors in the meta description you have to try to satisfy these requests:

  • Add a meta description to each page of the site.
  • Create unique descriptions for each page of the site, or at least a description for crucial Urls such as the home page and popular pages of the site.
  • Include relevant content information in the description. The meta description “should not only be in sentence format, but is a great place to include information on the page”, to provide potential visitors with very relevant information that otherwise might not be displayed in the snippet.
  • Generate descriptions at a code level.
  • Use quality descriptions, which have greater chances of being displayed in Google search results and can help improve the quality and quantity of organic traffic.