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Google's List Snippets
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Last week Google released what they refer to a list snippets. We had been seeing some of these snippets leading up to the official announcement from Google so we thought that we would mention them as we can expect to see more snippets with Google's search results in weeks and months to come.

Google List Snippets

Who:  Google
What:  Displaying list information in description area of search results.
Where:  Google Search Results Pages
When:  Launched August 2011 (Official announcement August 26,2011)
Why:  To better reflect the content of Google search results, making it easier for searchers to find the most relevant results


Example of List Snippet
A search for “pizza restaurants in Montreal” returns this result for Yellowpages.ca:

Here is a list snippet for hotels.com that appears when searching for "hotels in Las Vegas":

SEO Implications

Of course webmasters and site owners will want to know how this impacts their SEO efforts.  Well that remains to be seen, but there are a couple of questions that come to mind:
  1. How will this impact CTRs?
  2. Does this devalue the use of the meta description tag?
Let’s examine these questions in a little more detail.

How will this Impact CTR?

Depending on what is being displayed in the list snippet, these snippets might either:

a) encourage the click through by displaying related information that the searcher is looking for thereby enticing the searcher to click through to the site
b) prevent the click if the user is finding information that they are seeking (such as a phone number or address) – a potential solution to this would be to control what is displayed in these list snippets. 
  • To prevent Google from displaying snippets (and Instant Preview for your page) you can place the following tag in the <HEAD> section of your page: <meta name="googlebot" content="nosnippet">
  • This tag will prevent previews from appearing in regular search results, but will not affect previews on ads. http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=35304

Does this devalue the use of the meta description tag?

It is important to remember what meta data is and that is meta data is really data about data.  Currently search engines such as Google used meta descriptions to learn more about the topicality of a page.  Quite often, Google will display the meta description in their search results.  While this may change over time with rich snippets and list snippets showing up, it is still recommended to include unique meta description tags on your site pages.  Follow best practice and do not spam or abuse the meta description tag and you should be fine.
Google continues to attempt to improve their search results.  Some of the enhancements that they test and try may work and become widely accepted.  Others may not.  I am in favor of rich snippets, depending on what information is being displayed.  However at the end of the day if the snippet displayed helps me find what I am looking for then I'm happy.   

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posted by Jody @ 2:45 AM  
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