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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Google Allows Misrepresented Result Snippets

I’ve asked Google if it’s a “sneaky redirect” per their webmaster guidelines to send some users to a registration page that does not contain the words available in the search results page snippet (the words you searched for). Google, usually more outspoken, refused to comment to my questions on this issue since several months, but now Google’s Vanessa Fox answered “we want the page that the searcher clicks on in the search results to be the same as what’s represented in the snippet.” And yet, Google allows sites like WebmasterWorld (which we know members of the Google web spam team know, and like) to sometimes* go against this practice.

In other words, while Google may prefer the result snippet to show what your page shows (searchers prefer this too, of course; it sucks to see a registration page when you saw the content in the snippet), they do not enforce this behavior through punishments – which means today, every webmaster has the right to follow the WebmasterWorld implementation and sometimes show registration pages to users instead of a page containing the snippet the user saw on Google. After all, Google is treating all sites equal and they’re not playing favors to some websites, right?

*WebmasterWorld doesn’t always show the registration page; they sometimes show the content that was available in the snippet.

[Thanks JohnWeb!]

Update: Google and WebmasterWorld have reacted on the debate. Google made it clear they don’t want to allow misrepresented result snippets. WebmasterWorld amended their page serving behavior, and Matt Cutts emphasizes, “when a Google user clicks on a search result at Google, they should always see the same page that Googlebot saw.”


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