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Crying foul on Google’s new extended descriptions

When writing about the new ‘extended’ Google descriptions last week, I implied that the jury was out on whether it was important to take advantage of them or not. In many cases, I’m already starting to think that it is important, because Google is unfairly penalising those of us who’ve made an effort to present web pages properly.

Of course, we need some evidence, and we don’t have the data yet. But I think there’s one instance where changing to a longer description is immediately going to be a benefit, and I’ve seen examples of this many times already. It’s where your result is the only short one in a page full of results. Just find some examples of this and it’s quite obvious that the result with the short description is going to be overlooked.

Here’s an example:

My eye tends to skip over the fourth one down. And that’s a shame, because it’s a result from a company which has actually bothered to write a description meta tag for its page. The problem is that it’s a short one, written to the old rules. It’s now being crowded out, in some cases by results from companies who haven’t made any effort but who are getting oversize descriptions given to them by Google.

What happened in the past was that for pages where the owner had written a description meta tag, Google would usually show that. Alternatively, it might ignore it and choose to display selected text from the page, but that would be to the same (two-line) length. For people whose pages had no description meta tag, Google would have no choice but to choose selected text from the page. Whatever the case, the descriptions were much the same length.

Now, in the latter two cases (Google not liking the provided description meta tag, or there not being one), Google is selecting twice as much text for its made-up description. However, if you’ve only provided a short description meta tag and Google thinks it’s fine, that’s all you get …and as shown above, I think that puts us at a disadvantage.

I think this is really unfair, but we don’t get to make the rules. Tomorrow I’ll try to develop a strategy for what I think we need to do.