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A search snippet, or Google snippet, is a generated extract of web page content that is featured in the SERPs. Snippets are very important when it comes to attracting visitors, as a well-written snippet can go a long way in attracting users to click on your link and thus increase the click-through rate and visits to your site. Until recently, it was valid that Google extracts snippets from search terms and meta data, primarily meta descriptions. However, this is no longer the rule.
Google has updated its guidelines for search snippets to clarify how the algorithm chooses what to use in search results. The emphasis is placed on the content of the site, and this is another reason why it is important to have one quality designed website, as well as quality content on it.


How does Google choose snippets in search?

Google has updated its documentation for Search snippets to clarify what affects Google's algorithm for choosing what to display as a snippet in search results. This change can represent a big change in how meta descriptions are written and how content is optimized.

A web page that appears on search engine results pages (SERPs) consists of a title, a URL, and a one- to two-sentence description of what the web page is about. That last part is called a snippet. A snippet is defined as a concise or brief description of what a web page is about. Traditionally, the snippet is mostly derived from the meta description. But that hasn't been the case for some time.


Google clarifies policy for snippets

Google has updated its documentation to clarify that the content of the page is the main source of where the snippet comes from. The changes also made it clearer that structured data and meta description are not the primary source for creating snippets.

The official change documentation says:
"What: Our snippet documentation explains that the primary source of a snippet is the page content itself.

Why: The previous wording incorrectly implied that structured data and the HTML meta description element were the primary sources for snippets."

Google has removed a significant amount of text from the previous version of the documentation. The previous version implied that the snippet was derived mainly from the meta description, and said that Google "may" also select content on the page for the snippet.


Content is the main source of snippets

Updated documentation now makes it clear that page content is the main source of snippets. A meta description can only sometimes make an impact on how the snippet will be generated.

This is the new version of the documentation:
"Google primarily uses the content on the page to automatically determine the appropriate snippet We may also use descriptive information in the meta description element when it describes the page better than other pieces of content."

A new wording has also been set:
"Snippets are primarily created from the page content itself. However, Google sometimes uses the HTML meta description element if it can give users a more accurate description of the page than content taken directly from the page.”


What the change in guidelines means for SEO

Many SEO guides published online (wrongly) advise that the best way to optimize your meta description is to use it as "advertising copy" and use "target keywords" in it.

The idea is that the keywords shown in the snippets are bolded in the SERPs, making them stand out, so the keywords in the meta description will get bold keywords that will draw attention to them and drive a higher click-through rate.

It's 100% wrong advice and out of date. Adding keywords to the meta description is not important (meta descriptions are not used for ranking) and the purpose of the meta description is not to attract clicks from the SERPs. This is old and outdated advice and will cause Google to not use the meta description for the snippet.

The proper use of a meta description is to accurately and concisely describe what the web page is about, period.

Google is not interested in serving search optimized snippets. They want to show a description of what the web page is about, and Google's advice on how to write a meta description follows the official HTML meta description specification.


How to write a meta description from now on

Like Google advises to write a meta description:
"Google will sometimes use a page tag to generate a snippet in search results if we believe it provides a more accurate description to users than would be possible based on the content on the page alone. The meta description tag generally informs and engages users with a short, relevant summary of what a particular page is about.”

Google then describes the content of the meta description by comparing it to something that might resemble an advertisement. Meta descriptions are like an advertisement that convinces the user that the page is exactly what they are looking for.

The big takeaway from the updated snippet guidelines is that the primary source of snippets is content and that Google "can" use a meta description. Finally, Google makes it clear that structured data plays no role in choosing which words to use as a snippet.

What this means for SEO then is that the days of packing keywords into the meta description are definitely over. Use them correctly and it can help you better control the snippet that Google uses in search results.


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Source: Searchenginejournal

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