I have been playing around with some different robots arguments to determine exactly what they do. The constructive purpose of the nosnippet tag continues to elude me, as it didn’t work as I had believed it would (or should, for that matter). In using the nosnippet argument, my assumption was that it would prevent Google from simply choosing random text from the page as the SERP description – opting instead to default to the information included in the description META tag. That isn’t, however, what appears to have happened here on SEOAly, as illustrated by the image below…
Todd Friesen (a.k.a. Oilman) has since informed me that the nosnippet argument instructs Google not to show a description in the SERPs at all…and that appears to be confirmed by at least some of the results above. It doesn’t, however, explain why some pages/posts appear with the META description and others appear with nothing at all, despite all pages/posts having included the nosnippet argument when they were indexed.
I have since removed all of the nosnippet arguments from all pages of SEOAly to see how long it takes Google to update the info in their index. I will also be interested to see if they elect to use the description META tags I have created for each page/post or simply choose their own random text to display. Equally confusing is the fact that ALL pages of SEOAly previously included the nosnippet tag…yet, as you can see in the image above, some results DO include descriptions – and the text is clearly what is included within the description META tags themselves. A little consistency…that’s all I ask, Google!
On the flip side, before fully understanding the apparent outcome of using a nosnippet tag, I also decided to use it for our Welcome Home Pet Sitting website. I hoped it would help me better control the information included in the SERPs and thereby increase the click through rates to our site. As illustrated by the image below, the results of using nosnippet on that site weren’t exactly what I had anticipated…the results are also measurably different than what has occurred with SEOAly. Nonetheless, nosnippet did function as I believed it would for the other static pages of the site, allowing me to achieve the goal of having a modicum of control over what potential clients learn about us solely from SERPs.
As you can see, despite the use of the nosnippet argument on the home page, Google elected to generate the SERP description for that page automatically based on the page text – much to my dismay! The second result in the image above, one of two blog articles I have written for that site, shows no description at all. The second blog entry (result 7 above) shows the actual META description of the post, as do the rest of the static pages of the site – all of which included the nosnippet argument when they were indexed. Those results are what led me to believe that my theory regarding a nosnippet argument resulting in Google defaulting to the META description to be correct. It now appears my theory clearly wasn’t correct. I now don’t have a clue why anyone would want to use nosnippet at all, if the intended result is having no description included in the SERPs…
Prior to my incorporating the nosnippet argument into Welcome Home’s pages, Google was randomly generating the description for all pages of the site, despite the existence of a unique description META tag on each page. That is what prompted me to test the use of nosnippet in the first place. Initially I got the results I expected – Google replaced the randomly generated SERP descriptions with the text included within the description META tag itself – they did NOT eliminate the SERP description altogether. “Sweet…”, I thought…”theory confirmed”. Uh, yeah…not so much, it appears. I’ve also since removed the nosnippet tag from Welcome Home’s site to see how things shake out without it.
Despite the issues I’m trying to resolve in fully understanding the purpose of the nosnippet argument, BIG kudos to Danny at SEOmoz for including that on his SEO Cheat Sheet.