Snippetization Experiment Follow-Up

Just a follow-up to my last post about description snippets, posted on July 3, 2006. Lucky for me, Google cached a few pages on the same day, including this category page:

description snippet modified

This is what I predicted. BTW, all I did was remove an H2 element so that H2 preceeds a text block, instead of having an H2 immediately follow another H2.

Now you’re probably thinking, “What does this textbook seo voodoo have to do with viral marketting, increasing my reputation, or improving my CTR?”

In case you haven’t read it yet, here’s a recent remark Jill Whalen made in her High Rankings Adivsor newsletter regarding the importance of placing content high up in the source:

This is an old SEO myth. It actually makes no difference where in the source code the copy of the page shows up. The search engines have always known how to ignore the HTML code that is not important to them, and can easily find the “meat” that is important.

Let’s break this down, shall we?

It actually makes no diffeence where in the source code the copy of the page shows up.

Take a look at this site: search (don’t click if you’re pornophobic, but hey, its just google SERP). 20 some pages, with plenty of unique wordy posts, all but one page supplemental. Tedster from WMW would tell you they’re supplemental because Google picked up identical description snippets for every page: “Notify Blogger about objectionable content. What does this mean? Blogger. Send As SMS. Get your own blog Flag Blog Next blog. BlogThis !” Agreed. Google is judging my blog based not on the page copy, but the text snippet right below BODY. If the blog template placed the “Notify Blogger” text below content, that blog wouldn’t be having a problem.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying copy position in the source must always be high up. It depends on the HTML elements you use. But deeper you bury your copy text in the source, more likely Google will get lost.

The search engines have always known how to ignore the HTML code that is not important to them

Google doesn’t ignore any HTML when parsing a page. NOSCRIPT, IMG ALT, TD, DIV, even HR - they all dictate how Google reacts to a page. HTML elements add meaning; Google uses them as markers to find the meat. When those elements are misarranged, you are making Google’s life more difficult. An obvious sign of trouble is when you see Google defaulting to snippetizing the top of the source (e.g. nav link text, A HREF, image ALT, NOSCRIPT) instead of content.

Think of page copy position as the distance between you and a hoop on a basketball court. You move farther away from the hoop - you may still make the shot, but you’re decreasing your odds. If you know anything about games, winning is about playing your odds (though I’ve beat an open player in a 9-ball tournament finals making a 89 degree cut shot across the short side of the table instead of playing safe and forcing a ball in hand or a volley of safes, which would ‘ve been the smart thing to do).

[search engines] can easily find the “meat” that is important.

Clearly, Google can’t always find the important meat. If it could, identical description snippets wouldn’t throw it off and make it think its running into duplicate pages. But that’s what happens.

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2 Responses to “Snippetization Experiment Follow-Up”

  1. Sorry, but that’s ridiculous. Identical descriptions don’t throw it off, but are identical! I have plenty of pages with identical Meta descriptions which don’t seem to be a problem for Google.

    The point of my article was that you don’t have to have keyworded content JUST at the top of the page, but all throughout the page. If you disagree, let me know!

  2. Jill, this post is really old. I wrote it back when many people thought identical META descriptions cause ranking / supplemental issues due to dupe content.

    I hate to agree with you, but I do :)

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