How does Google decide what your website listing looks like in the search results? The appearance of your website in the search results has powerful influence on whether people choose to click on your website or not. So, why does Google choose to display your site in a way you may, or may not, want it to look like?
You have the ability to influence the appearance of your pages in the search results, but if you are not providing quality information then Google may choose to substitute text that it draws off the page, or using text from other sources, when it displays your page in the results.
Let’s look at the each of the elements in the results, and how Google chooses to display them.
There are several distinct elements of your website listing: the Title, the Description, and the Site Links.
The blue Title of your page (or pink, if you have clicked on it previously) is often determined by the content contained within the HTML of your page, the Title Tag.
If you are using a content management system (CMS) that enables you to edit your web pages, you will often be able to write your own Title of the page, staying within the recommended limit of 65 characters, or roughly 6 or 7 words.
So, what if your Title is not displaying the way you want? What if Google is choosing to display something different? There are a number of things you should check:
- Is your Title unique to this page? If you have the same Title on multiple pages, Google may choose to ignore the Title you have written
- Is the Title relevant to the content on the page? If it is off topic, again, Google may ignore it
- Is the Title of a suitable length, neither excessively short nor too long
Remember, the Title appears in the search results, but does not appear to the visitors to your web pages except as displayed within the tab of your browser:
The two lines of black text in the search results are often determined by the Description Meta Tag on each web page. The Description can be up to 250 characters, and is used to provide further information to help a searcher to understand the nature of the page.
Your content management system will provide you with a field to edit the Description, and each page should have a unique Description.
So, what if Google is choosing not to display the Description you have written? You should check the following:
- Does the page even have a Description that you have written? Very typically, the Description is missing. This is easy to fix!
- Is Google choosing to display the description of your website provided by the Open Directory Project (http://www.dmoz.org/) instead of your own description? Then you can include an instruction on your page, a Meta Tag containing the NOODP (“no open directory project”) to allow you to opt out of using this text
- Like the Title tag, is your description of each page unique, and relevant to the content?
- Is if of sufficient length, and contain meaningful information?
And finally, Google may display up to six additional links from your website. These Site Links are usually triggered by a search phrase that most perfectly fits your website, for example if a searcher types in your company name or brand.
How does Google choose the Site Links? We suspect a number of factors are at play: they may be the most popular pages on your site, or the page with the most prominence in your site navigation.
You cannot instruct Google which sites to include in Site Links, however you can tell Google which ones you do not want to display by demoting them using your Google Webmaster Tools account.
And so many more influences…
And finally, there are so many other factors at play that influence your appearance in the search results; these are just the first 3 for you to consider and correct.
Your personal and company Google+ profile each has a huge influence, the reviews your company receives, the different types of content you generate in the form of press releases and YouTube videos. They all influence the your appearance.
Get in touch if you would like to know more, or need some help improving your appearance in the search results.