Google Sitelinks 101: Changing Sitelink Snippet Description Text
If you’ve been following along in our Google Sitelinks 101 tutorial, then already know what sitelinks are, how to get sitelinks on your search result and how to demote sitelinks in Google Webmaster Tools. Now, we’ll look at one last piece of the puzzle: the sitelink description text, or snippet text.
Currently, the sitelinks have about 5 words / 40 characters of description after them, just like a full search result. Right now, hardly anyone’s is optimized for sitelinks, since the description text is brand new. So, you see a lot of stuff like this:
These descriptions are massively cut off, not to mention a bit redundant since the link title is the same as the first line in the description. Some minor tweaking might make this look a bit better. But in order to do that, we need to figure out where Google gets the text for these snippets.
Where Do Google Sitelink Descriptions Come From?
Currently, Google Sitelink descriptions come from the same place that normal link descriptions come from. That is, one of the following:
- Meta tags
- The page itself
That’s also probably the order of preference both you and Google would choose from in creating your description. Meta tags give you the most control out of all three of these. Here are some examples:
At Yelp, the description comes from the meta tag:
At CNET, the description isn’t in the meta. It comes from DMOZ.
At metmuseum.org, the snippet description text comes from a dated version of the web page itself. When there is no DMOZ listing or meta description, you get the first couple of words on the page. As you can see, this isn’t particularly ideal, especially on frequently updated pages.
Changing Sitelink Description Text
So, the answer here is clear. You can either (A) change your meta description, (B) change your DMOZ description, or (C) tailor the first words in your page to the description. B is pretty much infeasible since it can be tough for even high-quality, established sites with original content to get listed on DMOZ (cough). C can be stilted, and as we’ve illustrated above, not always timely. So, what you’re left with is the meta description option.
Building a Meta Description Tag
Now, the thing you should know about meta descriptions is that they do not affect your search ranking. So it makes almost no sense to keyword stuff these. That’s a good thing, really, because it frees you up to put something truly meaningful here. For example, with the Yelp one, you wouldn’t have to repeat Los Angeles as they did.
You should also note that meta tags don’t show up on the rendered page. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be readable and user-friendly.
Now, because the meta description will be used for both the normal description text, which can be longer, you’ll want to put the essential information first. I recommend making a very short paragraph starting with a three to five-word sentence, and then elaborate. That way, the site description gets a complete thought before the ellipses. For example:
Step-by-step tech tutorials. Tips, news, and reviews to make computing more productive and entertaining for beginner and advanced users.
The complete tag will look like this:
<meta name="description" content="Step-by-step tech tutorials. Tips, news and reviews to make computing more productive and entertaining for beginner and advanced users.">
Place that in the <head> portion of your HTML, or get an SEO plugin for your CMS that lets you type in meta descriptions.
Note: You’ll also want to add a meta tag that tells Google and any other search engine to not use the DMOZ description. Use this code:
<meta name="robots" content="NOODP">
A Note About the Title
The title for snippets primarily comes from the anchor text from a linking page. This is different from normal search results, which get it from the <title> tag. So, be consistent with the way you link to your pages. For example, take a look at metmuseum.org again:
As you can see, the page title is Current Exhibitions | The Metropolitan Museum of Art, but the sitelink title is simply Exhibitions. That’s because, on the pages nav menu, the anchor text is Exhibitions.
If there isn’t significant anchor text for Google to go off of, sometimes it’ll just pull the first few words before it hits punctuation. For example:
Google Sitelinks give you a huge amount of real estate in the search engine results pages. It’s in your best interest to make sure that your site gets sitelinks in the first place, the sitelinks that you want show up, and the descriptions are readable and compelling. Using the tips from our series, you should be able to achieve all of these goals.
With all that being said, the algorithm is constantly evolving. Check back for updates and more tips, and share your own insights in the comments!
Meta, Hombre! Love that…
Can I just set most of this using WordPress cat and tag descriptions?
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