The way we construct websites is forever influenced by our understanding search engines. This post is intended to be a Google Search Appearance guide for mid-weight web designers and website owners. For most of us, the three most important parts of the search appearance will always be the Title, the Snippet or description, and the URL. Rich Snippets and functions may come into play, depending on the topic and purpose of your website.

Shift CTRL | Search Appearance | Google Search Console - Understanding Search Appearance

The different parts of Search Appearance

What is a Title or Page Title?

The section in blue in the image below is the Page Title or Title.

Shift CTRL | Search Appearance | Page Title

How to influence Titles:

Titles are critical to giving users a quick insight into the content of a result and why it’s relevant to their query. It’s often the primary piece of information used to decide which result to click on, so it’s important to use high-quality titles on your web pages.

Write relevant, informative descriptions in the HTML title tag for each web page. If you need a little more help on how to do this have a look at the following 6 suggestions from Google themselves:

1.Make sure every page on your site has a title specified in the <title> tag.

If you’ve got a large site and are concerned you may have forgotten a title somewhere, the HTML suggestions page in Search Console lists missing or potentially problematic <title> tags on your site.

2. Page titles should be descriptive and concise.

Avoid vague descriptors like "Home" for your home page or "Profile"for a specific person’s profile. Also avoid unnecessarily long or verbose titles, which are likely to get truncated when they show up in the search results.

3. Avoid keyword stuffing.

It’s sometimes helpful to have a few descriptive terms in the title, but there’s no reason to have the same words or phrases appear multiple times. A title like "Foobar, foo bar, foobars, foo bars" doesn’t help the user, and this kind of keyword stuffing can make your results look spammy to Google and to users.

4. Avoid repeated or boilerplate titles.

It’s important to have distinct, descriptive titles for each page on your site. Titling every page on a commerce site “Cheap products for sale”, for example, makes it impossible for users to distinguish one page differs another. Long titles that vary by only a single piece of information (“boilerplate” titles) are also bad; for example, a standardized title like "<band name> - See videos, lyrics, posters, albums, reviews and concerts" contains a lot of uninformative text.

One solution is to dynamically update the title to better reflect the actual content of the page: for example, include the words “video”, “lyrics”, etc., only if that particular page contains video or lyrics. Another option is to just use "<band name>" as a concise title and use the meta description (see below) to describe your site’s content. The HTML suggestions page in Search Console lists any duplicate titles Google detected on your pages.

5. Brand your titles, but concisely.

The title of your site’s home page is a reasonable place to include some additional information about your site—for instance, "ExampleSocialSite, a place for people to meet and mingle." But displaying that text in the title of every single page on your site hurts readability and will look particularly repetitive if several pages from your site are returned for the same query. In this case, consider including just your site name at the beginning or end of each page title, separated from the rest of the title with a delimiter such as a hyphen, colon, or pipe, like this:

<title>ExampleSocialSite: Sign up for a new account.</title>

6. Be careful about disallowing search engines from crawling your pages.

Using the robots.txt protocol on your site can stop Google from crawling your pages, but it may not always prevent them from being indexed. For example, Google may index your page if we discover it by following a link from someone else’s site. To display it in search results, Google will need to display a title of some kind and because we won’t have access to any of your page content, we will rely on off-page content such as anchor text from other sites. (To truly block a URL from being indexed, you can use meta tags.)

If Google detects that a particular result has one of the above issues with its title, they may try to generate an improved title from anchors, on-page text, or other sources. However, sometimes even pages with well-formulated, concise, descriptive titles will end up with different titles in Google’s search results to better indicate their relevance to the query. There’s a simple reason for this: the title tag as specified by a webmaster is limited to being static, fixed regardless of the query.

Once Google knows the user’s query, they can often find an alternative text from a page that better explains why that result is relevant. Using this alternative text as a title helps the user, and it also can help your site. Users are scanning for their query terms or other signs of relevance in the results, and a title that is tailored for the query can increase the chances that they will click through.

If you’re seeing your pages appear in the search results with modified titles, check whether your titles have one of the problems described above. If not, consider whether the alternate title is a better fit for the query.

What is a Snippet?

In the image below the text in black is the snippet or page description. It serves the purpose of describing what a page is about.

Shift CTRL | Search Appearance | Snippet or Page Description

How to influence the Snippet?

Provide an accurate, succinct summary of the page’s content in its meta description tag. Write informative and relevant content for the page’s body.

The description attribute within the <meta> tag is a good way to provide a concise, human-readable summary of each page’s content. Google will sometimes use the meta description of a page in search results snippets if they think it gives users a more accurate description than would be possible purely from the on-page content. Accurate meta descriptions can help improve your clickthrough.

Here are some guidelines for properly using the meta description:

1. Make sure that every page on your site has a meta description.

The HTML suggestions page in Search Console lists pages where Google has detected missing or problematic meta descriptions.

2. Differentiate the descriptions for different pages.

Identical or similar descriptions on every page of a site aren’t helpful when individual pages appear in the web results. In these cases, Google is less likely to display the boilerplate text. Wherever possible, create descriptions that accurately describe the specific page. Use site-level descriptions on the main home page or other aggregation pages, and use page-level descriptions everywhere else. If you don’t have time to create a description for every single page, try to prioritize your content: At the very least, create a description for the critical URLs like your home page and popular pages.

3. Include clearly tagged facts in the description.

The meta description doesn’t just have to be in sentence format; it’s also a great place to include structured data about the page. For example, news or blog postings can list the author, date of publication, or byline information. This can give potential visitors very relevant information that might not be displayed in the snippet otherwise. Similarly, product pages might have the key bits of information—price, age, manufacturer—scattered throughout a page. A good meta description can bring all this data together. For example, the following meta description provides detailed information about a book.

<meta name="Description" content="Author: A.N. Author, 
Illustrator: P. Picture, Category: Books, Price: $17.99, 
Length: 784 pages">

In this example, information is clearly tagged and separated.

4. Programmatically generate descriptions.

For some sites, like news media sources, generating an accurate and unique description for each page is easy: since each article is hand-written, it takes minimal effort to also add a one-sentence description. For larger database-driven sites, like product aggregators, hand-written descriptions can be impossible. In the latter case, however, programmatic generation of the descriptions can be appropriate and are encouraged. Good descriptions are human-readable and diverse, as we talked about in the first point above. The page-specific data we mentioned in the second point is a good candidate for a programmatic generation. Keep in mind that meta descriptions comprised of long strings of keywords don’t give users a clear idea of the page’s content, and are less likely to be displayed in place of a regular snippet.

5. Use quality descriptions.

Finally, make sure your descriptions are truly descriptive. Because the meta descriptions aren’t displayed in the pages the user sees, it’s easy to let this content slide. But high-quality descriptions can be displayed in Google’s search results, and can go a long way to improving the quality and quantity of your search traffic.

What are Sitelinks?

The links shown below some of Google’s search results, called sitelinks, are meant to help users navigate your site. Sitelinks are generated algorithmically depending on the website and the user query. You can’t “activate” sitelinks.

1: The main search result
2: Sitelinks

How to influence Sitelinks:

The Google SERP systems analyse the link structure of your site to find shortcuts that will save users time and allow them to quickly find the information they’re looking for.

Sitelinks are only shown in results when they will have a perceived function to the user. Sitelinks will not be shown if the structure of a site doesn’t allow the Google algorithms to find good sitelinks, or sitelinks are irrelevant to a user’s query.

At the moment, sitelinks are automated.

There are best practices you can follow, however, to improve the quality of your sitelinks. For example, for your site’s internal links, make sure you use anchor text and alt text that’s informative, compact, and avoids repetition.

Demoting Sitelinks

If you think that a sitelink URL is inappropriate or incorrect, you can demote it. Demoting a URL for a sitelink tells Google that you don’t consider a particular URL a good sitelink candidate for a specific page on your site. Google doesn’t guarantee that demoted URLs will never appear as a sitelink, but a demotion is considered a strong hint that the Google SERP will try to honour when generating sitelinks.

Steps in demoting a sitelink URL:

  1. On the Search Console Home page, click the site you want.
  2. Under Search Appearance, click Sitelinks.
  3. In the For this search result box, complete the URL for which you don’t want a specific sitelink URL to appear.
  4. In the Demote this sitelink URL box, complete the URL of the sitelink you want to demote.

Once you’ve demoted or undemoted a sitelink, it can take some time for search results to reflect your changes.

You can demote up to 100 URLs, and demotions are effective for 90 days from your most recent visit to the Sitelinks page in Search Console.

What is Search within a site?

When users search for a company by name—for example, [Megadodo Publications] or [Dunder Mifflin]—they may actually be looking for something specific on that website. In the past, when the Google algorithms recognized this, they’d display a larger set of sitelinks and an additional search box below that search result, which let users do site searches over the site straight from the results.

This search box is now more prominent (above the sitelinks). The search box now also supports Autocomplete, and—if you use the right markup—will send the user directly to your website’s own search pages.

How can I mark up my site?

You need to have a working site-specific search engine for your site. If you already have one, you should marking up your homepage as a schema.org/WebSite entity with the potentialAction property of the schema.org/SearchAction markup. You can use JSON-LD, microdata, or RDFa to do this; check out the full implementation details on the Google developer site.

If you implement the markup on your site, users will have the ability to jump directly from the sitelinks search box to your site’s search results page.

If we don’t find any markup, we’ll show them a Google search results page for the corresponding site: query, as we’ve done until now.

What is a URL?

A URL is a URI. A URL is one type of Uniform Resource Identifier (URI); the generic term for all types of names and addresses that refer to objects on the World Wide Web. The term “Web address” is a synonym for a URL that uses the HTTP or HTTPS protocol.

How to influence URLs? 

A site’s URL structure should be as simple as possible.

Consider organising your content so that URLs are constructed logically and in a manner that is most intelligible to humans (when possible, readable words rather than long ID numbers).

For example, if you’re searching for information about aviation, a URL like http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aviation will help you decide whether to click that link. A URL like http://www.example.com/index.php?id_sezione=360&sid=3a5ebc944f41daa6f849f730f1, is much less appealing to users.

Consider using punctuation in your URLs. The URL http://www.example.com/green-dress.html is much more useful to us than http://www.example.com/greendress.html. Google recommends the use of hyphens (-) instead of underscores (_) in URLs.

Overly complex URLs, especially those containing multiple parameters, can cause problems for crawlers by creating unnecessarily high numbers of URLs that point to identical or similar content on your site. As a result Googlebot may consume much more bandwidth than necessary, or may be unable to completely index all the content on your site.

What is an Event – Rich Snippet?

The below images shows dates and details of events – these are  Event Rich Snippets.

Shift CTRL | Search Appearance | Event - Rich Snippet


How to influence 
Event – Rich Snippets?

Mark up the relevant parts of a web page aids Search Engines in understanding content correctly.

Event markup describes the details of organized events. When you use it in your content, that event becomes relevant for enhanced search results for relevant queries. For example, searching for a famous musician might bring up a relevant website link, but if the musician’s site uses event markup, the Google Search result can show a list of upcoming performance dates for that musician.

You can read more about all the use cases and appropriate markups here: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/data-types/events?rd=1

What is  a Breadcrumb?

A breadcrumb trail on a page indicates the page’s position in the site hierarchy. A user can navigate all the way up in the site hierarchy, one level at a time, by starting from the last breadcrumb in the breadcrumb trail.

Breadcrumbs displayed in on a web page

How to influence

Mark up the content in the body of your web pages to change your search appearance.

 

Type Definitions

Google Search recognizes the following properties of a BreadcrumbList.

Properties
image URL, required

A URL to an image resource that represents the current crumb.

item Thing, required

An individual crumb in the breadcrumbs trail. It contains the @id (a unique URL) and the nameproperty.

name Text, required

The title of the breadcrumb displayed for the user.

position Integer, required

The position of the breadcrumb in the breadcrumbs trail. Position 1 signifies the beginning of the trail.

What is a Product – Rich Snippet?

If you’re a merchant, you can give Google detailed product information that we can use to display rich results (for example, price, availability, and review ratings) right on Search results pages.

Using markup to enable rich product results lets you attract potential buyers while they are searching for items to buy on Google. You can maintain the accuracy and freshness of your product information, so your customers find the relevant, current items they’re looking for.

Image of a rich snippet with product information

How to influence

Mark up the relevant parts of your webpages to help us understand your content and change your product’s search appearance appropriately.

 

Guidelines for product – rich snippets

Product rich results provide users with information about a specific product, such as its price, availability, and reviewer ratings. The following guidelines apply to product markup:

  • Use markup for a specific product, not a category or list of products. For example, “shoes in our shop” is not a specific product. See also our structured data policies for multiple entities on the same page.
  • Adult-related products are not supported.
  • Reviewer’s name needs to be a valid name for a Person or Team For example, “James Smith” or”CNET Reviewers.” By contrast, “50% off on Black Friday” is invalid.

Type definitions

Product information properties

When you mark up your content for product information, use the following properties of the schema.org Product type:

Properties
name Text, required

The name of the product.

image URL, recommended

The URL of a product photo. Pictures clearly showing the product, e.g. against a white background, are preferred.

description Text, recommended

Product description.

brand Text, recommended

The brand of the product.

review Review, recommended

A nested Review of the product.

aggregateRating AggregateRating, recommended

A nested aggregateRating of the product.

offers Offer, recommended

An offer to sell the product. Includes a nested Offer or AggregateOffer.

sku | gtin8 | gtin13 |gtin14 | mpn Text, recommended

Various identification properties; these are described at schema.org/Product. Google recommends including brand and at least one identifier for each product.

Offer Properties

When marking up offers within a product, use the following properties of the schema.org Offer type:

Properties
price Number, required

The price of the product. Follow schema.org usage guidelines.

priceCurrency Text, required

The currency used to describe the product price, in three-letter ISO 4217 format.

priceValidUntil Date, recommended

The date (in ISO 8601 date format) after which the price will no longer be available. (Your product snippet may not display if the priceValidUtil property indicates a past date.)

availability ItemAvailability, recommended

Value is taken from a constrained list of options, expressed in markup using URL links. Google also understands their short names (for example InStock or OutOfStock, without the full URL scope.)

url URL, recommended

A URL to the product web page (that includes the Offer).

itemOffered Thing, recommended

The item being sold. Typically, this includes a nested product, but it can also contain other item types or free text.

Aggregate offer properties

An AggregateOffer is a kind of Offer representing an aggregation of other offers. When marking up aggregate offers within a product, use the following properties of the schema.org AggregateOffer type:

Properties
lowPrice Number, required

The lowest price of all offers available. Floating point number.

highPrice Number, recommended

The highest price of all offers available. Floating point number.

priceCurrency Text, required

The currency used to describe the product price, in three-letter ISO 4217 format.

offerCount Number, recommended

The number of offers for the product.

Portions of this page are modifications based on work created and shared by Google and used according to terms described in the Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution License.

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