Is Google Edging You Out?

Google Featured Snippets image

Is Google using your value-add content to edge you out? A couple of recent developments may point to just that.

Longer Meta Descriptions

The the most recent of these developments is Google’s recent move to increase the number of characters allowed in the bit of content that’s displayed on a search engine results page to indicate what a given page is about, called the “meta description”.

Search Engine Results Page Image

While having more characters to describe a product or service might be great for companies that sell products and services, there is potential downside here, in particular for pages that are primarily informational.

In the example above, I Googled the string “What is a search engine results page?” and wordstream.com’s page returned in position 1 on the results page.  While I would have expected something like what’s displayed for the wikipedia listing below, I’m sure the WordStream folks had a reason for making that entry.  Whatever the case, with the additional characters available – maybe up to a total of 300 – they could have put a basic definition, along with the information they displayed.

So what’s the problem?  Simply put, the more information you can put in your meta description, the less likely it is that I’ll actually have to click the link and go to your website to get the information I’m looking for.  Visitors who you might otherwise have been able to engage can be on their merry way without ever having to visit my page.   In a roundabout way, Google was able to provide them with the information they needed.  Your information, thank you very much.

Google Featured Snippets

The second development is a little older – and likely only used by very savvy digital marketers – but has a similar effect.

A few years ago, Google introduced a new Search Engine Results Page (“SERP”) display method called Featured Snippets.  With a little additional mark-up, a company could create a piece of content that, because it presents valuable information in an easily-consumable format, Google would display at the top of a SERP – even above paid ads.

Here’s what was a the top of the page for the Google search I mentioned above:

featured snippet example image

Here again, even though your content gets a premium spot on the results page, having valuable content that Google can serve up to give searchers the information they need without having to actually go to your website could be a “mixed blessing”. On the one hand, a link to your website is at the top of Google’s page 1! On the other hand, lots of people – potential prospects for your products and services – are able to get the information they were looking for without clicking that link.

To be fair, Google is in the “get searchers the information they’re looking for business”, not the “drive free traffic to your website business”. And who of us hasn’t benefited from doing a Google search and seeing the information we were looking for right on the results page?

Still, it is an interesting approach Google has taken and it certainly has the potential to negatively impact traffic to your website. That said, each company is going to have to figure out whether or not they can benefit from longer meta descriptions and Featured Snippets.

In the world of website Conversion Rate Optimization, we look at that SERP link click as the first conversion in the organic lead funnel. The bottom line for us is that, whatever direction Google takes, we need to figure out how to get that first conversion to get prospects into the lead funnel – and eventually into the sales funnel.

Thanks for taking the time. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the benefits and downsides of longer meta descriptions and Featured Snippets.

Cheers!

-Winston

Winston Clay
Winston is an irredeemable nerd, information consumer, ever analyzing and creating solutions.

He started his career in IT as a Macintosh computer lab manager and ended up as a software engineer before he exited the corporate world to help IT SMBs market better.

Winston and his wife, Ginger, live in Charleston, South Carolina with their awesome youngest son.  Their older children, who are also awesome, are in different states of self-sufficiency.