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Special characters in meta description - increase CTR?

 9:50 am on Nov 12, 2009 (gmt 0)


Today, I spotted a website using the character '★' to highlight their meta description. Their snippet certainly caught my eye and I expect it to work for many other, less web-savvy users as well.

These characters serve a purely presentational purpose and I guess their usage will not make google's SERPs look much better. As such, I would expect Google to rather frown upon using this form of snippet decoration. However, the site in question is ranking #3 for a very competitive keyword...

My question really, is how does google really look upon sites using special characters like '★' to attract additional eyeballs? Because if done in moderation, it might just give you a small additional edge.



 11:18 am on Nov 12, 2009 (gmt 0)

I think it's a cheat technique. There is no addition useful information for SE users in this symbols. And google will react properly


 11:35 am on Nov 12, 2009 (gmt 0)

They might, because they are notoriously heavy-handed, but why should they? This isn't AdWords where everyone is expected to have a level playing field content-wise.

Snippets are supposed to grab attention. You can put prices in them, superlatives, 'free' and other attention grabbing things. They're not used by Google for rankings so they're not spammable.

Of course, it's an 'arms-race' technique, but if you're one of the first then you could grab extra eyeballs until others in your niche start doing it.


 12:18 pm on Nov 12, 2009 (gmt 0)

>They're not used by Google for rankings
very controversial.
Snippets affects CTR, CTR affects ranking.


 12:58 pm on Nov 12, 2009 (gmt 0)

CTR affects ranking

Woah there. CTR on organic SERPs does not affect ranking as far as any test has ever shown. Just want to clamp down on that one.

I agree that there is no reason to crack down on it, except its a bit like the dollar auction*. If they allow it, the logical result is unusable SERPs, horrible user experience. They might stamp on it, or render it as the string "★" (as opposed to the character)

Dollar Auction [en.wikipedia.org]- An example of a series of perfectly rational decisions, but with an undesirable end result. Objective analysis would show the "most rational" decision would be to avoid the game


 1:46 pm on Nov 12, 2009 (gmt 0)

Of course, CTR doesn't give influence directly, but it's concluded into ranking formula as far, as hundreds of other factors. It's not enough just to click snippets on the SERP page. It's necessary to imitate user's behavior on the webpage, imitate moving from the SERP results to the target page and back to the SERP.
No one test could prove neither your position, nor mine.


 1:51 pm on Nov 12, 2009 (gmt 0)

I don't want to go too far off topic here, but what your saying is
"I have no data, I have no tests, and I accept that it has such negligable value as to be immeasurable".

Thats fine. Personally, I throw rose petals behind me wherever I go, because it keeps the elephants away.


 2:42 pm on Nov 12, 2009 (gmt 0)

They did used to test CTR rates on some organic results, but I don't know if those results have been used in the algo at all.


 3:39 pm on Nov 12, 2009 (gmt 0)

What I meant by 'description tags aren't used for rankings' is that tweaking them doesn't impact rankings when you get crawled like <title> does.

If special characters in snippets become widespread I don't see Google rendering them as the plain html - that really WOULD make for messy SERPS. They could just ignore certain ones. But hey, they could just ignore links they don't like too. That's not their style though is it?


 4:34 pm on Nov 12, 2009 (gmt 0)

It would only be messy if they allowed proliferation in the first place. If they cut it out early, it wont be widespread, and there will be no incentive for it to spread.

Otherwise, there's always their tried and tested method of exclusion- ellipsis.

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