Google Update Expands Context and Snippets

Google just released a 2 part update that they have announced through their blog. The first aspect is the addition of related search results to your serp pages and new technology (The Gypsy indicates it’s part of a larger algorithm) for Google to correlate terms, the second is an extension of the Description field in the Google “Snippet”, which should prompt us to review our current SEO practices to make sure it’s still the most rational approach.

Context is Everything

Google hopes to  enhance the search experience by better understanding user intent. First up, a new technology has been deployed to understand the associations of a given search phrase. Google offered up the example of “principles of physics.” With the new technology, Google now understands that “angular momentum,” “special relativity,” “big bang” and “Quantum Mechanic” are all related terms, and will alter SERP behavior accordingly. This is important to bear in mind as you write your content that you need to focus on a broader range of related keywords, because Google isn’t looking just at how many times a single keyword is appearing, it’s looking contextually. Therefore you need to provide a broader context for your content in order for you to show your relevance to that set of related keywords.

Sorry Guys, but Google Says Longer is Better

When you enter a longer query, with more than three words, regular-length snippets may not give you enough information and context. In these situations, we now increase the number of lines in the snippet to provide more information and show more of the words you typed in the context of the page.

Sounds great right? Well, you need to look at this a little bit harder to see how this could impact your search engine optimization of your website. In the past, the limit of approx 140-160 characters for your description was  pretty standard, because that’s what would actually display on the serp. However, this question comes to mind:

Is the expanded Snippet the Meta description or text from the page to provide “context”?

Now I had previously done some research on how Google uses DMOZ information in their snippet results. So I started with that URL to provide a historical sample so we could compare.

Well here’s a query for [http://www.pathaddad.com]

Short Snippet Of a Google serp resultand here’s a much longer query

[Indianapolis real estate services and homes for sale in Carmel, Noblesville, Fishers, Westfield, Geist, Morse, Zionsville and other Hamilton County areas]

Longer Snippet from Google

From this example we can see that this snippet extension will, for longer query terms, increase the size of viewed characters in the meta description as well as pull in contextual text bits separated by an ellipse. The length can be more double and triple the previous 140 character limit. The good news is that in context it may uncover extra details from a long description, but I would still say that it would be best to provide a 140 character limit meta title and let Google grab extra snippett description from the page to provide content.

The Take Away

It is interesting that Google is taking steps to encourage long tail searches. With the release of the Google suggest, we saw an increase in “Fat Belly” terms…but this change while focused o nthe user experience, shows Google is interested in serving long tail queries more effectively. You need to provide a broader context for your content, and it will lend itself to supporting long tail queries.

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