September 11, 2013: The analysis of search engine results is a critical component of the SEO professional’s role. But good analysis requires a thorough understanding of the specific components of a search engine result listing. As Google technology continues to innovate, the depth of information found in the search engine results page (SERP) has certainly expanded.
We often get asked why various experiences and information gets displayed in the search engine results for keyword targets. Fortunately, Google Webmaster Tools offers an interactive landing page for marketers to better understand the components of search engine results commonly found Google SERPs.
Here is a quick rundown of some of the common elements B2B marketers should be aware of in their evaluation of SEO performance.
Search Result Title
HTML Title Best Practices
- UPDATED 4/25/2014: We recommend titles between 55 – 60 characters since that is the amount of character space allocated in Google search results. Spacing of alphanumeric characters has an impact as well. This Moz tool helps test title tag visibility.
- We find it ideal to include the primary keyword target of the web page at the beginning of the HTML tile when possible.
- We recommend including the brand name at the end of the HTML title
Search Result Description
A properly crafted meta description can often be seen in the search engine results description element. While meta descriptions do not directly influence search ranking, a well crafted meta description should positively influence click thru rates when a web page appears in search results for targeted keyword phrases.
Meta Description Best Practices
- We recommend titles no longer than 160 characters since that is the amount of character space typically allocated in Google search results.
- Avoid using generic, universal meta description data across web page properties.
Search Result Site Links
Webmaster Tools indicated that sitelinks are generated algorithmically depending on the website and the search engine query and while site owners cannot “activate” sitelinks, they can restrict navigational elements from appearing via Google Webmaster Tools.
Concise site navigational architecture (IE, clean, easily parsed HTML code) appears to be an important element in developing appropriate sitelinks, should Google deem appropriate for display. I also tend to believe brand development is another important component, albeit highly subjective in terms of valye identification.
Search Result URL Information
While a pretty straight forward factor in search result display, URL information can more clearly be defined through the implementation of domain canonicalization and the implementation of the REL Canonical tag on individual web pages.
Similar to sitelinks, marketers cannot directly change the URL information found in these results but can seek to refine keyword focus within a website through internal cross-link adjustments and copy enhancements.
Search Result Rich Snippet Information
The more common rich snippets Google Webmaster Tools provides example for (see below) are not as commonly used by B2B marketers with the possible exception of the breadcrumb trail element (however B2B marketers running B2B E-commerce sites or active in event marketing should take notice).
At a higher level B2B marketers should pay closer attention to recommendations found in Webmaster Tools Rich Snippets optimization section and Schema.org since the library of microformat opportunity is continuing to expand. For example, we have already seen microdata implementation have a positive impact in Google+ sharing optimization.
Search Result Authorship Information
The one area of rich snippet information all B2B marketers should be concerned about implementing is Authorship. A successful authorship integration helps differentiate a B2B organization’s message in search engine results and provide further opportunity to build brand awareness.
Two articles with instructions on how to implement Google Authorship Markup can be found here and here but I would also recommend following articles in the Google Authorship category on Search Engine Land, since updates and changes to Google+ can be rather frequent (and often difficult to follow).
NOTE: Google Webmaster Tools also provides brief insight into the “Search within a Site” element but we tend to find that type of search behavior very difficult to attain and less applicable for most B2B websites.
Even More SERP Examples
Unfortunately, the examples above only compile information specific to traditional search engine results and Google does include the impact of local results, blended search elements, knowledge graph, or personalized search information.
Blended search experience can have a considerably adverse impact on B2B SEO performance if not carefully considered. For example, we have seen diagrams and graphs often appear in an “Image Results” section of search results when the query is much more conceptual in nature (potential examples here and here)
SEO Professionals and B2B Marketers should review Dr Peter J Meyers presentation, “Beyond 10 Blue Links: The Future of Ranking“, which provides a much more comprehensive set of SERP examples and tackle the additional search experiences previously referenced.
Bottom-line, there is more to search analysis than just positioning. Understanding how the specific elements of search results can be impacted, to improve performance regardless of position, is just as important.