Google Dropping Snippets?

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Google Dropping Snippets?
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I didn't see anything on TW or elsewhere about this, but it's really amazing to see how many more ODP descriptions and META descriptions are taking the place of snippets in Google's SERPs. If this keeps up, SEOs will be begging DMOZ to remove their sites from the directory, so they can get their META descriptions (aka ad copy) displayed.

Google "SEO Consulting" for a nice example. From here, my (lame, mis-spelled, and deceptive) ODP description is shown (at #7), another site's (very well written ad copy aka) META description is shown right above (at #6).

Comments

Misleading Titles, too.

This approach is a poor one at best, and shows some very bad judgment on the part of the folks at Google.

There is no incentive for anyone at the Open Directory Project to check those descriptions, and update them if necessary, so they don't.

Another search that is problematic is Internet Advertising, where the "Internet Advertising Bureau" comes up number one in the results. The problem is that the organization changed the title of their page to reflect their new name, the "Interactive Advertising Bureau," sometime in April or so of 2001 (according to the Internet Archives site). Since the DMOZ has them listed as the "Internet Advertising Bureau," that's what shows up in the title of the page in Google.

Does the use of that title influence their ranking, other than as anchor text pointing to the site from DMOZ? That's something that I would like to know.

Relevance

So, the only text the webmaster can really control is Adwords? And the serp descriptions look a little, shall we say - uninviting - by comparison?

Dan

That is the worse description I have ever seen, I assume you have tried to get it changed?

the headline is misleading

I mean, saying that meta description usage is showing "ads" in the results -- them's two different things.

I think the usage of ODP info in particular has been more noticed, and I think that's especially since it's probably more annoying to site owners, since it comes from a third party. Nick, I'm going to do some link dropping here, so slap me down as you think appropriate.

Proposed Search Engine Standard For Titles & Descriptions
http://forums.searchenginewatch.com/showthread.php?t=5759

That's the forum thread I started back in May, when a lot more of this had been noticed. There are links to info in the first post.

Basically, my push was to have the search engines stop using ODP or third party info if they see a meta description tag on the page. I didn't care if they then used EITHER the meta description or made a snippet. That they could decide. But I wanted stuff to come from my OWN page, at the very least.

Indexing Summit 2: Redirects, Titles & Descriptions
http://forums.searchenginewatch.com/showthread.php?t=7276

Is Barry's coverage from when we raised this before the search engines at SES. I'm doing my own longer follow-up on both the indexing summits hopefully in a week or so. But short answer is this.

There are the odd occasions when someone uses a meta description tag by mistake -- we had a funny thing in the live session where I typed in some web authoring tool, and it brought up some grandma's page that had the title of the tool in the title and description. So you have to be wary of saying, they used a meta description tag, so use that.

We ended up with what I thought was wide support for a "pretty please" tag or mechanism. Say it's something you put in your robots.txt file, something a typical person wouldn't do or an authoring tool wouldn't do but someone who really cares about search engines might make the effort. And that would effectively say -- hey, yeah, I really do want you to use my title and also my descriptions or at least a snippet.

That doesn't solve the idea that some meta description tags read to you like ads. But then again, it's left to the search engine to algorithmically or whatever decide if it wants to use descriptions or snippets.

By the way, I've never tried this, but if you remove snippets with this tag, http://www.google.com/webmasters/remove.html#remove_snippets, that just leave you with no description at all or might it still go for the ODP or a meta description tag?

>link dropping We like

>link dropping

We like relevant links here danny, you should know that...

We actually had a conversation on the titles and descriptions thing here aswell: http://www.threadwatch.org/node/2604 and one on the summit (both i think) but im buggered if i can find them grrrr...

misleading?

Danny,

The title doesn't say they're paid ads, but I know you don't accept the idea that organic listings are advertising. That's your opinion. But this is Threadwatch, not the New York Times. I'd prefer 'provocative' to 'misleading.'

If a search engine takes the TITLE and META description from a web page, then the site owner has as much control of that as they do with their paid ads. Possibly more, since they can have a longer displayed title and description. In fact, you could insert the exact same text into your organic listing as you have in your PPC ad.

The only thing the site owner has less control over is when the ad is triggered, and some of the folks here at TW would no doubt argue with that. Some SEOs feel like they have pretty good control over which search queries will trigger their listings.

It would be interesting to try the "nosnippet" thing, but I kind of like having snippets and cached pages.

NFFC, if you mean "submitted the change form at DMOZ," yes I tried to get it changed. I've submitted half a dozen changes/corrections in the past year, so far none of the changes has been made.

What I meant

was as Google's been experimenting with all the "more results" nonsense and stuff inserted into the middle of the pages, we've had people mistakenly thinking ads have been inserted there.

So maybe it's provocative to call the title and description changes ads, but I saw that headline in my feed and thought, "ugh, have they really done that." Lots of people also don't click through on headlines. So if they ain't really ads, I wouldn't call them that in the post headline. I personally found that confusing. But that's me :)

As for this:

"If a search engine takes the TITLE and META description from a web page, then the site owner has as much control of that as they do with their paid ads. Possibly more, since they can have a longer displayed title and description."

Nope, I disagree. I mean, with a paid ad, you pretty much get guaranteed placement if you pay enough, Google's mystery quality scores notwithstanding. That's control. Organic? You still hope you've got the skills and the links and the content or the black hat knowledge to pull it off, but you don't have control. I know you've addressed this, but yeah, I still see a difference in the organice results and ads and don't define one or the other by titles and descriptions.

Especially on titles, since search engines have used HTML title tags from day one for listing titles, I hardly feel the site owner is getting some new ad-like control. We've always had that other than when you were also listed in the Yahoo Directory (and they depended on that), and I'm much more alarmed that the search engines are deciding they should perhaps move away. Same thing on descriptions. I mean, your entire situation with the ODP is absurd. You shouldn't have to be going through it, but neither do I think you should feel like you're getting ad like control.

we'll see how much control

If Google replaces the ODP description with my META description, I think I'll add "Hi, Danny" to it as the next little test.

There are many forms of advertising where the advertiser doesn't control triggering or display. I used to spend plenty on banner advertising networks, where we had no control over which site, which visitors, what page, etc. I've got a whole lot more control over triggering with organic results, especially on the Google network, where the ranking of paid listings floats around just like the organic results.

Are organic search results advertising? No, but some of the listings could be - I try to keep an open mind on this, but one of my arguments against SEO as advertising has been the presence of algorithmically derived snippets. Roll the format of organic listings back to 1998, and that argument goes away.

I agree with Danny

The headline is misleading. I thought I was going to read something new, not some rehash of much-discussed phenomena that has nothing to do with advertising (and, no, DMOZ listings are not "ads") in the Google SERPs.

I was hoping for some insight in the new practice Google introduced a few days ago of changing SERPs after a few entries to an unreleated search.

Where did THAT idea come from, and how long do we have to put up with it before it goes away?

Shhhh....

I think we better be quiet about the ODP descriptions in Google or Matt C. might decide to use the ODP titles as well, just out of spite! :( Then they could be just like Yahoo. Blech.

Maybe Nick

will change the title...

Michael, nobody said DMOZ listings are ads.

You should be able to still

You should be able to still edit it Dan

FWIW, i thought it a bit misleading too :) but then it WAS provocative also, i was undecided, so let Dan take the flak heh...

Yes a bit misleading, but worth the read for sure

Catchy and quite interesting. I was an editor for DMOZ for a year and they tossed me straight out as they thought I was favoring the Lake Tahoe community. Well they can't get anything done over there!

So, while looking for something about ad campaigns showing in the natural listings I didn't get exactly that, but I must say, I found the thread very informative. Thanks.

Yahoo penalizing paid advertisers...

When NFFC said "That is the worse description I have ever seen," I thought for an instant that he was talking about Dan's headline for this thread...

By the convoluted logic of Dan's headline, Yahoo has been running "ads" in its organic serps too. And, in so doing, it's been penalizing its actual paid advertisers... its directory advertisers... whose titles get changed in the organic listings.

I prefer my own titles and meta descriptions too, and I agree that Google and Yahoo should leave them alone. Sure, they are crafted to attract visitors, but I'd never call them "ads" in the context of organic serps. Danny S pretty much covered all the reasons why.

okey dokey

Title's been changed... you people are no fun at all.

Robert, maybe I haven't made my point, or maybe you didn't read it. I don't see an editorial description from DMOZ or Yahoo as ad copy. But a META description certainly can be written that way.

Pretty much all of the engines showed the TITLE and META description for listings many years ago, and the SERPs back then looked a lot like the PPC listings do now.

So let me do this again....

1a) Using directory descriptions hurts sites that submit to directories, while possibly helping those who don't submit or don't meet quality standards
1b) Using DMOZ descriptions is even worse in some cases, because they can be mis-spelled and misleading.

2a) Using META descriptions allows SEOs to insert ads into the regular results because the site owner has 100% control over the title and META tag.
2b) If you don't want to call them ads, let's call them "something that isn't an ad but contains the exact same words as an ad"

Actually, some of the META description + Title combos that I've seen today wouldn't be permitted as PPC ads on either Google or Yahoo.

I don't know how long the title can be, Nick - will the system accept "Google showing organic listings that are written just like ads but they aren't ads because Danny says they aren't ads"?

Well, in principle, I agree with you, Dan, and have...

Well, in principle, I agree with you, Dan, and have for some time now. DMOZ has become impossible to work with, in some cases. Certainly it's not worth the hassle for many of us any longer. Google's reliance upon DMOZ content is a chief factor, for me. DMOZ can torpedo you faster than many bad practices.

After all, it's all about where you end up in the search results. Irrelevant or misleading titles and descriptions don't help Google, the searchers, or the Webmasters.

speaking of Altavista

BTW, Michael, I hear you... Google's annoying "switch to a different query in the middle of the SERP" feature will hopefully go away soon.

I thought Altavista was doing a pretty good job presenting 'related searches' with PRISMA a few years ago, and Teoma's 'refine your search' is also pretty useful. None of them is quite as good as what Northern Light used to offer, but the best search tools aren't always winners in the marketplace.

Clusty/Vivisimo has a decent setup, but they use DMOZ search results (worst search engine ever) as part of their rankings.

Dan, have you encountered

Dan, have you encountered any problems having the listing amended?

I made a request to have my site delisted by DMOZ, but the editors refuse to remove it!

Yes and No

Someone edited my site's description at DMOZ about a week after I blogged about it, perhaps because of the noise over here. Whatever the reason, I appreciate it, because all the words are spelled correctly.

Google still has the old description, of course, which I've suppressed with a META description for now.

The removal of my old site (my e-book site) has been done, so somebody over there is moving through the piles. That took about six months.

>but the editors refuse to

>but the editors refuse to remove it!

Send any traffic from DMOZ to an adult page, they will soon remove it and won't relist it, give them the chance to play the game first though.

Some of those DMOZ listings

Some of those DMOZ listings are absolutely appalling, and can only have a negative commercial impact on the companies involved.

For example, see if you can guess which well known UK company this listing represents?

"Products and services. Quotation and application facility."

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