Many consumers use the internet to find information about every topic imaginable. To make it easier for people to quickly choose a link that has the content they need, Google, and other search engines, use snippets to show relevant information in search engine results. Recently, Google introduced changes to snippet settings to give website owners more control over how the information is displayed. 

Google uses snippets in a variety of ways to help people who use their platform. For example, recipe snippets often include an image and the average user rating. Other examples include event schedules, lists, and the answers to question people type into Google.

Though snippets are useful for consumers, they can have unintended consequences for website owners. In a sense, snippets can be too effective. If people can get the answer they need by looking at the search result page, it eliminates the need to visit the website that provides that answer. This dynamic is problematic for companies that depend on traffic to their site for sales or ad revenue. 

In the past, website owners only had a “yes or no” option when it came to snippets. Either they allowed Google to automatically generate a snippet and use it wherever, or they had to turn off snippets entirely. Google’s recent snippet update will give website owners more control over how a snippet from their page looks so it’s no longer a binary choice. 

In a post announcing these changes, Google wrote, “However, we recognize that site owners may wish to independently adjust the extent of their preview content in search results. To make it easier for individual websites to define how much or which text should be available for snippeting and the extent to which other media should be included in their previews, we’re now introducing several new settings for webmasters.”

Adjusting the way a snippet looks on Google will be done using a set of robots meta tags and an HTML attribute. There are four meta tag settings that can be used and combined to let Google know how a snippet should look. The “nosnippet” tag is an existing option to specify that a website owner doesn’t want any textual snippet shown for the page. A new “max-snippet:[number]” tag lets you set a maximum character length for the snippet. By using the “max-video-preview:[number]” tag, users can specify a maximum duration in seconds of an animated video preview. And a new “max-image-preview:[setting]” tag sets the maximum size of image preview to be shown for images on this page, using either “none”, “standard”, or “large”.

They can also be combined, for example: <meta name=”robots” content=”max-snippet:50, max-image-preview:large”>

On the HTML side, a new “data-nosnippet” HTML attribute can be used on span, div, and section elements. Website owners can use this attribute to prevent certain elements in a page from being shown within the textual snippet on the page.

According to media reports, there’s no word on if these new snippet-related tools will work on other search engines that utilize snippet data.

For more news about updates and changes to Google, read this article on the September 2019 Core Algorithm Update which has affected the rankings and traffic for many websites.