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Increasingly, internet users are using longer queries to search for information on the web.

That's not all that surprising. Most information we seek out isn't generic in nature and as the average web user gets more sophisticated, it was inevitable that search queries would get more sophisticated too.

Yesterday, Google announced an update that will make it easier for users who are searching with longer queries to evaluate the pages that Google returns. The update provides for longer snippet text where appropriate, adding more context to how the keywords in the query appear on the page.

The goal is to provide users with enough context to evaluate whether or not the page is relevant to their search:

When you enter a longer query, with more than three words, regular-length snippets may not give you enough information and context. In these situations, we now increase the number of lines in the snippet to provide more information and show more of the words you typed in the context of the page.

Needless to say, this is a small but useful update that should improve the Google experience.

It may also have SEO implications. Peter Young at Marketing Pilgrim, for instance, believes that the update may reduce the importance of the description metatag and may increase the importance of giving Google good signals about where a page's core content is located since the longer snippets are ostensibly pulled from what Google believes is the body of the page.

Personally, I'm not so sure that this update will require any real changes to SEO strategies; if Google does a good job generating the snippets there shouldn't be any action necessary. That said, if you do receive a lot of search referrals from complex queries (or are trying to boost long tail traffic), it may be worthwhile to monitor long tail search referrals and compare them to the volume of long tail referrals received before Google's update, as one might expect to see more of these in certain circumstances as users are given more context in the snippet.

Photo credit: dannysullivan via Flickr.

Patricio Robles

Published 25 March, 2009 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (1)

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Gabriel Weinberg

We've been doing similar things at Duck Duck Go (http://duckduckgo.com/) to these new Google changes.  In particular, we put zero-click info, e.g. topic summaries, on top of links.  We also also put an explore box with related topics above links.  For example check out http://duckduckgo.com/?q=futurama

Our snippets and related topics are not algorithmically driven, however.  Instead they are based on human edited sources, e.g. Wikipedia and Crunchbase (and many others).  Consequently, they are more relevant and make more sense than Google's info.  We also have more semantic properties, such as ambiguous keyword detection, e.g. http://duckduckgo.com/?q=apple, which of course Google does not.
See http://duckduckgo.com/about.html for some more examples.  Of course, we'd love your feedback on what we're doing.
Gabriel Weinberg, Founder & CEO

over 7 years ago

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