I recently wanted to check my knowledge about the structure and origin of search results as served in a Google SERP before a meeting with a stakeholder. I specifically wanted to check their design and how to influence their utility for users.
Here’s a great, but slightly dated (2007), primer from Matt Cutts, a Software Engineer at Google.
Search Result Structure
The major components of a search result snippet:
- Query term “City University”; emphasis applied and styled bold
- Content Snippet
- Cached version
- Site Links
- Google index of the domain
- Developers and content creators have
a great deal of controlover the content in their results.
- Critical to consider labelling and information scent; especially in the document title which will become the result Title.
- Description Snippet is drawn from many places, including:
- Meta description tag. Particularly important if content cannot be crawled or is missing.
- Page contents. Weighting to query relevance rather than just location in content order and hierarchy.
- Open Directory Project; especially if content missing or cannot be indexed
- Can use Webmaster Tools to A/B test conversion rates for different Titles and Snippets.
- Cached copy a clue regarding indexing freshness and indexing frequency.
- Site Links are based wholly on search algorithm.
- Search terms are styled bold to provide visual emphasis. The algorithm understands stemming and synonyms but these will not receive any visual emphasis if returned in results.