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Google Adds Support For Rich Snippet Customisation Tags

25 September 2019 | 0 comments | Posted by Che Kohler in nichemarket Advice

Google adds support for custom rich snippets

Google SERP's have become a rich media display over the last few years with all sorts of weird and wonderful markups finding their way into search results. Gone are the days of boring old text and link results. Now a search can provide you with additional information like video, images, instant answers, other questions, and so much more.

Top of the table of contents

Have you ever googled something and received an instant answer box above all the queries? These are known as rich snippets. Rich snippets are now a firm fixture of Google Search results pages, and none is more prominent than the "position zero" snippet. Position Zero is a rich snippet that sits above the top 10 listings and provides an instant answer for a specific search query. 

As an SEO, we covert these spots and actively format out content to encourage these rich snippet listings within SERPs. While we could format our post to encourage snippets, we had little no control over what was displayed in search, until now.

Google allowing rich snippet configuration

Google is giving site owners the ability to customize how their content is previewed in search results.

By default, Google has always generated search snippets according to the users' queries and what types of devices they're using. However, there was previously no room for customization – it was only possible to allow a textual snippet or not allow one.

Now, Google is introducing multiple methods that allow for more fine-grained configuration of the preview content shown for web pages. These methods include using robots meta tags as well as a brand new type of HTML attribute. Here's more information about each of these methods.

Configuring search snippets with Robots Meta Tags

The content shown in search snippet previews can now be set using robots meta tags. The following robots meta tags can be added to an HTML page's, or specified via the x-robots-tag HTTP header:

  • "nosnippet" – This is an existing option to specify that you don't want any textual snippet shown for a page.
  • "max-snippet:[number]" (NEW) – Specify a maximum text-length, in characters, of a snippet for your page.
  • "max-video-preview:[number]" (NEW) – Specify a maximum duration in seconds of an animated video preview.
  • "max-image-preview:[setting]" (NEW) – Specify a maximum size of image preview to be shown for images on this page, using either "none", "standard", or "large".

The above robots meta tags can also be combined, for example:

New data-nosnippet HTML attribute Google is introducing an all-new way to limit which part of a page can be shown as a preview in search results.

The new "data-nosnippet" HTML attribute on span, div, and section elements can prevent specific parts of an HTML page from being shown within the textual snippet in search results.

In other words – if you want to prevent Google from giving away too much of your content in search results, this is the method you wish to use.

Here's an example:

Alan Shearer is the English Premier Leagues all-time top scorer

In this example, if someone were searching for a query like "EPL all-time top scorer," the HTML attribute would prevent Google from giving away the answer (Alan Shearer) in search results and encourage a user to click through to the site to get the answer. 

Not a ranking factor

This update will only affect how snippets are displayed in search results. Google confirms these settings will have no impact on search rankings. Depending on how a site owner chooses to configure these settings, there may be an impact on CTR, which could then impact traffic. But that is not related to search rankings.

When do these changes come into effect?

Preview settings for robots meta tags will become effective in mid-to-late October 2019. It may take a week for the global rollout to be completed once it starts.

The data-nosnippet HTML attribute will be active later this year while there has been no specific timeframe was provided for that particular settings global go-live date.

Will these new changes affect how rich results are displayed?

Content in structured data that is eligible for display as a rich result will not be affected by any of these new settings. Site owners already have control over the content displayed in rich results by what they choose to include in the structured data itself.

How will these changes affect featured snippets?

Featured snippets depend on the availability of preview content.

So if you limit the preview content too heavily, it may no longer be eligible to be displayed as a featured snippet, although it could still be viewed as a regular snippet.

The minimum number of characters required for a featured snippet varies by language, which is why Google cannot provide an exact max-snippets length to ensure eligibility.

Can site owners experiment with snippet length?

Site owners can absolutely adjust these settings at any time. For example – if you specify a max-snippet length and later decide you'd instead display a longer snippet in search results, you can change the HTML attribute.

Google notes that these new methods of configuring search snippet previews will operate the same as other results displayed globally. If the settings are changed, then your unique preferences will be displayed in search results the next time Google recrawls the page.

Google will 100% follow these settings

These new settings will not be treated as hints or suggestions. Google will fully abide by the site owners preferences as specified in the robots meta tags or HTML attribute.

No difference between desktop and mobile settings

Preview preferences will be applied to both mobile and desktop search results. If a site has separate mobile and desktop versions, then the same markup should be used on both.

Additional resources for webmasters

These options are available to site owners now, but the changes will not be reflected in search results until mid-to-late October at the earliest. For more information, see Google's developer documentation on meta tags.

Why is Google giving us this new feature? 

Google wants to provide a better experience to its searchers and while its AI snippet creation tool has done a fine job, not every answer works well within the confines of the snippet and it doesn't always quite display correctly. By giving webmasters a way to specify how these snippets should be displayed actively assist Google in providing better rich snippets and improve click-through.

Rich snippets configurations work the same way Google often creates its own meta description for links where the description isn't specified. So now that you can, you have active control over what users see and improve click-through rates.

Contact us

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If you require a more detailed guide on how to create your profile or your listing, then we highly recommend you check out the following articles. 

Recommended reading

If you enjoyed this post and have a little extra time to dive deeper down the rabbit hole, why not check out the following posts on schema and HTML markups.

Tags: SEO, Organic Search, Rich Snippet

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