Google Lets Site Owners Customize Their Search Results Snippets

Google is set to release a new feature within its snippet settings that will allow webmasters to customize how their content is previewed in search results. Already, Google always would generate search snippets according to the search query performed and if the content on a page is related to that query. This left no room to customize what was shown, only if the content will show or not. With this new feature, Google is now introducing multiple ways to fine-tune the content that could appear in snippets. These methods will be implemented using robots meta tags as well as a new type of HTML attribute.

New Snippet Meta Tags

Below are the four new meta tags that you can add to an HTML page or specified via the x-robots-tag HTTP header.

  • “nosnippet” – This existing option lets webmasters specify to Google that you don’t want any textual snippet shown for a page.
  • “max-snippet:[number]” (NEW) – This tag will be used to specify a max text-length, in characters, of a snippet on your page.
  • “max-video-preview:[number]” (NEW) – This tag will be used to specify a max duration in seconds of an animated video preview.
  • “max-image-preview:[setting]” (NEW) – This tag will specify a max size of image preview to be shown for images on a page, using either “none,” “standard,” or “large.

A cool feature with this update is that the above tags can be combined. For example, if you want to set a max for an image and text you would write code like:

<meta name=”robots” content=”max-snippet:50, max-image-preview:large”>

In addition to these meta tags, there is a new way to limit which part of a page can be shown as a preview in search results. This new HTML attribute is  “data-nosnippet” and can be applied to span, div, and section elements. This is a great way to prevent Google from giving away too much of your content in search results, thus creating an incentive for searchers to click on your link.

For example, if someone searched for “most famous magician” but you didn’t want to give the answer, Harry Houdini, away completely in the search results, you can apply this tag to your page so that it leaves out the answer.

<p><span data-nosnippet>Harry Houdini</span> is undoubtedly the most famous magician ever to live.</p>

By leaving that part out of search results, searchers will see the “undoubtedly the most famous magician ever to live” in search results but not the magician’s name. This causes an incentive to click your link so the answer will be revealed, thus providing you with website traffic.

What SEOs Need To Know

This update will only affect how snippets are displayed in search results and will have no impact on search rankings. As mentioned earlier, depending on how the site owner chooses to configure these settings may impact the click-through rate of their page. This update will become effective in mid-to-late October for the meta-tags while the HTML attribute will come into effect later this year.

Rich Results & Featured Snippet Effects

One thing to keep in mind is that while rich results are shown through proper structured data implementation, restricting certain amounts of content to be shown and impact your featured snippets. This is because featured snippets require a certain minimum number of characters to be displayed and if you block certain content that makes you go below the minimum the page might not qualify for a featured snippet position on search results pages.

Snippet Length Adjusting & Google Directive

With these new tags, webmasters can adjust the length of the snippets at any time and whatever edit they make, will show in search results. This is perfect for it you make a max length at one time but then decide you wanted to include more information in the snippet. With updates in the past, Google sometimes tells site owners which will actually be followed and ones that they will consider as hints. These new tags will be 100% followed by Google.

Start Now

While these tags won’t have the results showing on SERPs until mid-to-late October, they are available to be applied to pages now. This is perfect for SEOs to get a leg up on the competition and start implementing them now on pages so they are ready to go once the official rollout happens.

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