New month, new Google news!
Before we get into the Google change, let’s give some background info.
This is straight from Bing:
“A caption (also known as a summary) is the area of a Search Engine Results Page (SERP) devoted to a particular result. Captions help users to decide which result to click on and help site owners to communicate to users what to expect on their page.
Captions are an oft-forgotten tool of the SEO toolkit. Ranking is certainly the most important factor in determining user clicks, but captions are also a contributor. In this post, I will give you a primer on captions. I’ll show you all of the components of a caption and give a bit of insight about how Bing generates each of those components.
Every search result has a caption, which consists of four parts: the title, the snippet, the URL, and the Preview.”
Bing and Yahoo sometimes use the text in the first H1 header on the page to supplement or replace what you have in your Meta Title and/or Description tag.
Typically Google uses your Meta Title and Description tag. Sometimes in the past they have shown snippets taken from the page if they felt it was more relevant than your Title tag. But they’ve always been more conservative about this. It seems that is now changing. They have gotten a little bolder and a little more experimental and are sometimes using anchor text or on-page headings (text in H1 tags) to supplement the description in the SERPs.
The take-away here is to not only craft compelling Title tags but also H1 tags (make sure you use keywords well but don’t overuse them and consider this marketing text that will help you get clicks – so be compelling and inviting)
Now back to Bing for a second – since they were doing this before Google, let’s look at what they have to say on the topic. Here is a great little table from Bing that shows the 4 parts of the results on the SERPs and where they pull the info from:
Title: <title> tag and <hx> tag
Snippet: Meta Description tag, page content, DMOZ description
URL: Page URL
Preview: Page content, extracted page data, commonly clicked links
The Title is the most important part of the caption because it is what users see first when they are scanning the SERPs. It is also the blue clickable link. Bing usually pulls this from your Title tag (and so does Google) And as noted above the engines seem to be using H1 tags for that). Note because of this, you should have unique and compelling H1 tags and Meta tags on each page!
The snippet is also called the caption and description. It’s there to let the user know what the page is about and should compel them to click on that listing. It is pulled from the Meta Description tag, the DMOZ description or algorithmically generated from your page.
The URL is of course your URL and Bing suggests that it is helpful if the URL is descriptive of the page.
The Preview is unique to Bing (although if you recall, Google was testing it last month). Bing says they are still playing with that area and determining what is best to include on the page.
The take-away? Make sure you have compelling Hx tags and Meta tags that use your keywords well and make sure the tags are specific to the topic of that page.