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Monday, October 6, 2008

New Google Test – The Short and Long of Google Search Engine Listings

Posted by @ 12:53 am

While checking transport info in trusty Google last week, I uncovered a new interface test by the search giant.

There, at the top of the Google search engine results page (SERPs), were three squares with the letters S, M and L. The “M” square was highlighted, so I decided to have a play.

The squares allow the user to display short, medium and long versions of the search engine listings on the page. Any enhancement that gives the user more control over their search experience is a good thing in my books, but this has real potential for a searcher.

Let’s look at each option in more detail.

S – Short:
This option displays only the title and the URL. Rather than wasting the space, on this option the user is shown more listings per page.

This is perfect for searchers trying to quickly scan to find a particular site based on URL or Title.

M – Medium:
The Medium option is the current default length in the Google SERPs. Perhaps the perfect mix of detail with a regular title, short description/snippet and the URL displayed for each listing.

L – Long:
Finally, the Long option as the name suggests, offers an extended description for each listing. Actually, its 638 characters to be precise (thanks iridiax over at the webmasterworld forums), plus a title and URL for each listing.

This is very handy when trying to find specific page information using short search queries or when conducting more in-depth research.

The enhancement offers some real benefits for users. However, if it becomes a permanent feature, it will present new challenges for website owners and search engine marketers. And here’s 2 reasons why:

  1. The Short option adds more pressure on creating compelling Titles for each page on your website. We all know Titles play an important role in the ranking process, but the short display option means balancing keyword richness with creative copy is more important than ever in terms of generating click through.
  2. With the introduction of a Long option, the importance of relevant copy around keywords increases dramatically. As Google is likely to use lengthy extracts from the page that contain the keywords – the surrounding copy needs to tell a persuasive story.

This will be a challenge for many SEO’ers as the ability to write strong keyword rich marketing copy is difficult for many – especially the ones that rely on keyword stuffing to get results.

Should this test see the “light of day”, SEO and copywriting will be more intertwined than ever before. What do you think of the test concept? Will it make searching better or worse?

Rene LeMerle Rene is the marketing manager of - a global search engine marketing company. He also leads the marketing for - a web 2.0 style community for online and digital marketers. Rene has been in the industry since 1997 with much of that time spent helping businesses embrace the best of the internet and digital world.

View Rene LeMerle's profile

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