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.
Josh Garner says
How long did this test run for each of the sites? Though not a lot, it does take time for Google to update that stuff sometimes. Could be that the test wasn’t long enough. A thought.
I wondered that, too. All pages of SEOAly have been “nosnippet” for about 30 days…all subsequent blog posts were published “nosnippet” initially, so they’ve not been live a day without it.
I changed Welcome Home’s pages to “nosnippet” around the same time (when I installed the “Platinum SEO Pack” for WordPress). It didn’t take long for Google to update the individual page descriptions to the actual META descriptions after adding “nosnippet”, which is what led me to believe that I understood what it was for in the first place.
I just noticed the SEOAly issue the other day after checking to see what pages of the site were indexed. I just don’t get why some pages show META desc and others show nothing…doesn’t make sense.
I’m going to leave robots alone for the next 30-45 to see where everything ends up. Then I’ll pick just a few pages/posts to use “nosnippet” and see what happens. I’m a dumbass…that’s what I should have done in the first place, but I “thought I knew” what it was for! That’s what I get! ;)
Columbus SEO says
I found your site on Sphinn… very cool article here, I’d never heard of NoSnippet. Thanks for putting this out there!
Consider yourself sphunn.
Columbus SEOs last blog post..Thank You, Google, For Making SEO More than a Boring IT Job.
Yeah, thanks for braving the seamy world of seldom used robots tags and the… well… whatever we can garner from this study :) Speaking of lack of control over how your results appear, one big pet peeve is when Google decides to show DMOZ listings over page title, META description, and even page snippets in the SERPs — this especially bugs me when the DMOZ entry hasn’t been updated in a while, due to factors far outside our control (e.g. the editor seems to have taken a permanent vacation, which is more the norm than the exception nowadays)
Thanks for the comment, Fred. There is also a lesser known robots META tag called “noodp” that I have used with some limited success (or so it appears) in controlling the description shown in SERPs. It’s function is to prevent DMOZ from overriding the META description, but my understanding from reports of others who have tested the argument more extensively than I is that it only applies to the home page of the site.
Thanks for the tip — I may use it! Look forward to seeing the results of your NOSNIPPET work, too.
I’ll be sure to write a follow up post once I have some “news” to report regarding the use of nosnippet and whether or not it functions as I believe it should. We shall see! :)