I was looking at the new Google results page design and layout and after looking at the new font, layout with URL below the title etc. one big thing struck me.
Has anyone noticed that Google is not using auto generated snippets for the website description - instead they are using the meta description tag if there is one.
That is a huge change - it's going back to the old days.
It is a massive opportunity if this holds and is not just a test. It seems that they show the first 150 characters of the meta description tag (if present) - if not they use the existing snippet generated, and if the tag is bigger than 150 chars they use the "..." at the end.
I mean, wow! If you optimise your meta description tag within the 150 chars it looks great and really gives you a chance for higher click throughs.
I wonder if they are thinking it is better to give back power to the website to determine what the "sales pitch" is about the site and that it looks much more natural to have a concise sentence written by the website owner rather than the unnatural snippet with bits of highlighted content and multiple "..." that we are used to.
Maybe they have worked out it gives a better decision for the user (fitting with the new user engagement and Panda algo) or maybe they are testing it.
I think they are experimenting with "site preview" option, combining it with snippets. In "site preview" window Google displays text annotation, taking it from text around keywords in document, and placing it in separate block above site screenshot. Snippet now serves for general site description, but text in "site preview" window provides more precise and "context" information. And although this practice is not acceptable for long tail keywords, I think I like this "successive refinement" tendention -)