When a page of your website appears in Google’s search results, you see a Title, which links to your page, a snippet that describes what can be found on that page, and the page’s URL. So where does Google get that snippet from?
Generally, it comes from one of three places:
- Your META Description for that page
- Your on-page content
- Your Open Directory Project (ODP) listing
If you are not satisfied with the Google snippet that appears in a search result, is there anything you can do? Yes, there is, but understand that Google chooses the snippet and it does so based on what they believe is best for searchers. There is no guarantee that you can direct Google to change your snippet, but you can take measures to influence that snippet in the right direction.
First, determine where the current snippet is coming from. Is it coming from your ODP listing, from your META Description, or from your page content.
- ODP Listing – If Google has taken your page snippet from your ODP listing you can try to contact the ODP editor for that category and ask that your listing description be changed. However, realize this is a long shot. Those editors are volunteer editors and they are overworked. If they change your description, it will likely take a long time. Meanwhile, your Google snippet will remain unchanged. What you don’t want to do is to harass ODP editors and send request after request after request. This will only annoy them and they may delete your listing altogether.
A better option is to rewrite your META Description and/or on-page content.
META Description – If you aren’t satisfied with your Google snippet and you’ve determined that Google has used your META Description verbatim, then rewrite your META Description. Be sure to use the keyword phrase you want to rank for. If you don’t use the keyword phrase in your rewrite, then Google will likely revert back to your on-page content or your ODP listing.
On-Page Content – It is becoming more and more common that Google will take content from on the page and use it as the snippet for a search result. This isn’t bad. If you don’t like the content Google has used as a snippet, you can rewrite your META Description and include the keyword phrase in that description, rewrite the content that is being used for a snippet (again, use your keyword phrase), or you can use microformats to alert Google to important content on your page and hope Google uses that as your snippet instead.
Google has the final say on what your snippets are, but you can write your content and META Description so that you influence their decision. Realize that every page will likely rank for more than one keyword phrase. It’s possible – in fact, likely – that Google could use one source for one keyword snippet and another source for another. If you are aware of each keyword phrase that a page could potentially rank for, try to include all of those keywords (up to three) in your META Description. Also, optimize those pages for each keyword phrase.