Beginning this week, Google search results will show something new: customizable snippets.
Customizable snippets became available to webmasters two weeks ago (the week of October 13, 2019). Last week (the week of October 20), Google users around the world—on all devices—began seeing customized snippets.
What are Google Search Snippets?
Snippets are short web page previews that search users see on search engine results pages (SERPs). Until very recently, snippets were auto-generated by Google from web pages’ schema markup. Now, Google is allowing webmasters to customize certain elements in their site’s snippets.
How will customizable snippets work?
Google’s new-and-improved snippets are enhancements on the already available markup feature—basically a series of meta tags—that offer a variety of customization options.
As described in a blog post on customizable snippets earlier in September 2019, Google already allowed webmasters to set their snippets and content preview preferences. These tags are meant to be inserted either in the <head> section of a web page’s HTML or in its body elements and allowed webmasters to specify:
- The “max-snippet: [number]” tag (sets the maximum length of a page’s meta description)
- The “max-video-preview: [number]” tag (determines how long a video preview will play on the SERP)
- The “max-image-preview: [setting]” tag (sets SERP image preview sizes. Large images are known to drive higher click-through rates (CTRs))
- The “nosnippet” tag (will prevent a snippet from being created for the page).
Now Google has introduced new ways webmasters can customize their snippets. Let’s look at a few new possibilities:
1. Result snippet with rating, price range, and review.
2. Result snippet with formatting, links, image, and comparative information.
3. Result snippet that includes document types, authors, page views, and comments.
4. Richly formatted result snippet that provides multimedia access and buttons (“ADD TO CART”).
Why is Google bringing about this feature now?
Recently the French government passed a law that requires Google to pay publishers if it uses even short excerpts of their content on its SERPs and on Google News. As a result, now Google allows publication sites to only show the title of the article without any other information.
Here’s what users will see on the SERP when publishers opt to use only article titles:
Based on Google estimates, this will negatively impact publishers site traffic, but at least Google won’t have to pay for copyrights.
It’s also introducing customization features for webmasters in all geographies.
Will customizable snippets affect SEO?
This snippet update will not impact rankings, knowledge graph results or answer boxes. What will change is click-throughs from search. Title-only snippets should see fewer click-throughs, while highly relevant and engaging snippets will likely drive more.
Due to the fact that many publishers will limit how much of their content appears on Google’s SERPs—thus lowering their CTRs from search—customizable snippets may offer an opportunity for your brand to snag more search visibility and traffic.
Developing great content will continue to be key, though. Snippets are just the “front-end” of what you publish on the SERP—and having strong content across the buyer journey remains essential to driving organic clicks.
The final word
Customizable snippets offer an exciting opportunity to increase organic engagement. Still, it’s early going with snippet customizability. We are working with some of our top finserv and ecommerce clients to test the possibilities this opens up, and closely observing the space as we develop and implement new enterprise-level customizable snippet strategy tests. You can definitely expect to hear more from us on this shortly.