Well, the results are in. Oilman was absolutely right – as if I ever doubted him for a moment! The NOSNIPPET robots argument was not only preventing Google from generating a random snippet of text to use as the description within the SERPS, it appears to have been preventing a description from showing at all. For those of you who may not have read it, I wrote a post on August 15th entitled “Unexpected Results Using NOSNIPPET” which forever immortalized my ignorance as to the purpose of the argument…and the fact that I’m not ashamed to admit my position on the learning curve!
At that time, it was my understanding that NOSNIPPET would allow me to better control what appears as the description within Google’s SERPs. I assumed Google would automatically default back to the description META tag itself. I was wrong. Wrong…wrong…wrong. What NOSNIPPET caused Google to do in my case was to show no description of the page at all – opting instead only to show the page title. Upon realizing this (on August 15th…shortly before writing the original post) I promptly removed all NOSNIPPET arguments from all pages. Testing…isn’t that we we SEOs do? I guess that’s what they mean by “trial & error”. ;)
Here is the result of my having removed the NOSNIPPET argument from my robots META tag:
As you can see, the pages are now appearing with the appropriate descriptions as they should have been initially. And as they likely would have been if I’d just left it alone in the first place. My goal to begin with was to control something that hadn’t even become a problem. I’ve always been the type to attempt to anticipate a problem and prevent it from occurring…I’m very proactive in nature. At least in this case, my proactivity caused a problem that may never have occurred in the first place. Lesson learned.
It was important that I test the NOSNIPPET argument at some point, but I likely should have done a bit more research on it’s original intent prior to doing so. Now that I know what it does, or at least what it did in this case, I can’t imagine a reason for wanting to use it. I can’t think of a page worth listing in the index that wouldn’t benefit from having a corresponding description. Why would anyone want a page listed in the index without a description? And if there is no ultimate goal of increasing click-through rates, why not just NOINDEX the page and keep it out of the SERPs altogether.
I’d love to get some feedback on the legitimate use of NOSNIPPET and any thoughts on the logic behind having a page listed in the SERPs with just a title and no description! Did I mention that I have removed the nofollow commands from my post comments? To dissuade spammers, you do have a leave a certain number of comments before the NOFOLLOW is removed…but it is a low number and I know you’ll all understand. :)
Please feel free to discuss away! ;)
Casey Yandle says
Great experiment there! Like you, I wasn’t aware of this. So what is the point of NOSNIPPET then; why would you NOT want to have a description there?
Good article, thank you.
I wonder if the robots will ever respect a MYSNIPPET command? Well we can hope ;) Would make the descriptions in the serps that much easier to control and no doubt make a lot more sense at times. How often do we see garble and boilerplate text in the description field.
Very true, Robert. There are often garbled and illegible “snippets” included within many SERPs. A “MYSNIPPET” command would certainly be nice…though I doubt search engines will ever give that much control over SERPs to webmasters. :)
Even the commands that are recognized these days are merely “suggestions” or “requests” that they’re under no obligation to actually follow. In most cases they do use the META description…but not always.
In the cases when they don’t, it’s good to know that NOSNIPPET doesn’t make Google default to the actual description…it does, however, make them show no description at all. So, if that’s your goal, NOSNIPPET is the argument for you. :)