make your site stand out in search results

Yoast SEO
How to make your site stand out in search results

Yoast SEO: How to make your site stand out in search results

December 14th, 2017 – 31 Comments

In this article, I’d like to highlight the snippet preview in our Yoast SEO plugin. What is it, how does it work and what should you pay attention to? First of all, I have to point out that Google makes the final selection of content for your mention in the search result pages. No matter how much effort you put in optimizing your meta description, if Google feels that another snippet of your pages answers their visitor’s search query better, it will use that snippet instead of your meta description. Is that a problem, you think? I think it isn’t. It’s Google helping people understand your page better.

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Let’s look at that snippet preview

You can find the snippet preview in the so-called meta box, right below the edit field in WordPress:

Yoast SEO's snippet preview - How to make your site stand out in search results

As you can see, the meta description needs optimizing and the title is perhaps a bit long. Now, where do we change all these things?

Your site’s title

If you want to make your site stand out in search results, this will always have to be optimized one page at a time. Branding should be consistent on all pages, by the way. Looking at a single search result, the page title is the thing that gets the most attention in the search result pages. It’s in the largest font, the blue color pops. It’s usually also the most consistent thing in there. Your titles look like this by default (due to settings in our plugin): ‘page title’ – ‘site name’. Now if that is something you’d like to change for this specific post, simply click ‘Edit snippet’ and you’ll get this screen:

Edit Yoast SEO snippet preview

As you can see, the template of the title is displayed here. %%page%% will give you the number of the page is you have spread the article over multiple pages, %%sep%% is the separator or divider you can pick in our plugin as well. If you want to adjust the title, you can do that here. For tips on how to set that title up, please read Crafting good titles for SEO.

Read more: ‘Titles and meta variables in Yoast SEO’ »

Meta descriptions

We have written quite a lot about that meta description. It’s the only ‘tool’, besides the title, that Google gives us to optimize our invitation to our website. In the meta description, you highlight what your page is about and why the user should visit it.

Note that the meta description is a suggestion for Google, as I mentioned earlier. If Google doesn’t use the meta description you enter or edit here; some reasons could apply:

  • Your meta description doesn’t match the search query of the user. If you optimize your meta description for a certain keyword, which differs from the query, Google might decide to pick some sentences that fit the query better instead. Again, that might be a good thing.
  • Your meta description is over-optimized for a certain keyword, or considered to be too focused on sales/spam. Sometimes you may manage to squeeze in an emoji or icon of some kind, most of the times Google prefers text. I think most users do, by the way. It allows for more characters if you leave the fluff out, so your sentences are easier to read.

The length of that meta description

Now let’s discuss the length of that meta description. Up until now, we used to stick to approximately 160 characters, but times they are a-changing. Just recently, Google mentioned longer meta descriptions to upto 320 characters. This means we can squeeze in a few extra lines of text. However, Google will display this in some cases, not all. Google often seems to know best regarding the meta descriptions. Read Joost’s post on the new meta description snippet length and find out how this impacts SEO in general and Yoast SEO in particular.

wordpress seo expanded meta description

Longer meta descriptions also means that the first result will get some more attention, which fits Google’s aim of showing you the best result right away. And, think along the lines of voice search as well. MOZ’s example of our meta description post aligns nicely with the voice search example Joost used here. It’s consistent this way. Not sure if that’s the thought behind it, but it came to mind.

At Yoast, we keep a keen eye on what’s going on here and if we find the logic behind this new length, or Google tells us, we will find and recommend new best practices. As a start, Yoast SEO 6.0 lets you add meta descriptions upto 320 characters. And, for the time being: results are still perfectly fine in the old length!

Get the most out of Yoast SEO, learn every feature and best practice in our Yoast SEO for WordPress training! »

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Optimizing your slug

Last but not least, you can also alter your slug. That’s the post-related part of the URL for that post. In our snippet preview editor, you can change that slug. Remove some clutter, make sure there’s focus. If possible, add the preferred focus keyword in there. Google could change that slug into ‘breadcrumbs’ a lot of the times, by the way. But if your URL is in the results, it’s nice to have the focus keyword in bold there as well.

One more thing: site links

Last but not least: site links. Site links are the links that you sometimes find below your main mention:

Site links for Yoast

As you can see, it’s one mention, with multiple extra site links below it. Now, this isn’t in our plugin or snippet preview, since we as site owners can’t control or suggest these. Google even removed the option to demote any links here last year. So it’s out of our reach, to be honest. Just wanted to clarify that :)

In conclusion

That’s it. You can easily optimize your mention in the search result pages if you use the snippet preview, and editor, in our free and premium Yoast SEO plugin. It’s an easy, convenient way to present Google with a ready-to-use, optimized snippet for their search result pages. Now go and optimize :)

Keep reading: ‘The beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO’ »


31 Responses to Yoast SEO: How to make your site stand out in search results

  1. koemsiely
    By koemsiely on 21 December, 2017

    Very useful article Michiel. I am using the free version of Yoast for my website.

  2. Empowermented
    By Empowermented on 20 December, 2017

    This post brings up a great point. Your CTR is going to depend on your meta title and description. The snippet preview allows you to tweak exactly what searchers are going to see. So many people are concerned with getting their site to the top of the results and they forget to really optimize their meta details, which leads to less clicks and less traffic than they otherwise would have had.

  3. Sonjoy Pall
    By Sonjoy Pall on 18 December, 2017

    Hi. Google has updated their meta description length for 320 characters. But Yoast SEO plugin limited 156 characters. We all need to update meta description and also should avoid Yoast red sign..so its better Yoast Update their Algorithm as Goole Updated.

    • Michiel Heijmans
      By Michiel Heijmans on 20 December, 2017
    • Edwin Toonen
      By Edwin Toonen on 19 December, 2017

      Hi Sonjoy. It’s coming, sooner than you might think ;)

  4. Mahender
    By Mahender on 18 December, 2017

    I have been using yoast plugin for 1 month now and i’m happy with the result. Now i’m going to get the premium plugin for easy internal linking and redirection purposes.

    • Edwin Toonen
      By Edwin Toonen on 19 December, 2017

      Great news, Mahender. Thanks for your support!

  5. wordove.com
    By wordove.com on 18 December, 2017

    The SEO plugin has been a saving grace though am still experiencing some set back her. For more than 6months now all the article i have written never ranked and i dont know why.

    • Michiel Heijmans
      By Michiel Heijmans on 18 December, 2017

      My first tip is to improve loading time: Google PageSpeed. Especially caching can be improved. Besides that, Google will only find your site and see it as an authority when you have sufficient backlinks to your site, which also not seems to be the case. So there is some optimizing to do, but also some promotion (think social media, guest posts, things like that).

      Just a quick analysis :)

  6. Francesco
    By Francesco on 17 December, 2017

    I think Yoast must update the meta-description length urgently, or at least give an advanced option to choose it.

  7. Paris Forlidas
    By Paris Forlidas on 17 December, 2017

    Indeed. A/B testing the title and meta description can also be a way to increase our click-through rate and eventually perhaps Google will rank us higher.
    Thanks Michiel for this useful article.

  8. jane
    By jane on 16 December, 2017

    In search results, I see lots of people having long descriptions and they are ranked on top of the results, but in yoast plugin when I write some description it turns red after I write only few words.

    • Michiel Heijmans
      By Michiel Heijmans on 18 December, 2017

      We’re always looking closely to what Google does and will adjust the plugin if needed asap. Like with this meta description length!

  9. Suresh Dubey
    By Suresh Dubey on 16 December, 2017

    Hi,
    Very useful article Michiel. I am using the free version of Yoast for my tech blog (automationelearn.com). Thanks

  10. Regel Javines | MBO
    By Regel Javines | MBO on 16 December, 2017

    It pays to read Yoast blog. I was actually searching for a rich snippet to appear on a search engine, especially on Google search.

  11. Jamiel
    By Jamiel on 16 December, 2017

    Good lesson for me to understand today Mr. Michiel. Glad to be able to read this article and certainly can make more and more learn about SEO. I hope to read a new lesson from you in the next article. thanks.

  12. Anything Graphic
    By Anything Graphic on 15 December, 2017

    “It’s the only ‘tool’, besides the title, that Google gives us to optimize our invitation to our website.” I love that sentence.

    I play around a lot with optimizing meta descriptions and titles. It’s fascinating… and frustrating.

    • Michiel Heijmans
      By Michiel Heijmans on 18 December, 2017

      As long as the fascinating bit wins from the frustrating bit, right :)

  13. Francesco
    By Francesco on 15 December, 2017

    Hi, I don’t fully agree when you say meta-description length is currently ok, because Google is already applying the new length. I think Yoast must urgently update the meta-description field to 230 chars or similar. I think that Google sometimes analyzes the meta-descriptions to create the results, so if one have a description smaller than the allowed one, one is penalized.

    • Michiel Heijmans
      By Michiel Heijmans on 20 December, 2017

      Done.

    • Michiel Heijmans
      By Michiel Heijmans on 18 December, 2017

      Working on it as we speak, just want to make sure we’ve got the right Google-approved length.

  14. Digital Marketing
    By Digital Marketing on 15 December, 2017

    I had done everything right, but meta description of one of my website pages are not getting updated on Google. Meanwhile, I have changed the meta description of home page, it got reflected on Google.

    May I Know what went wrong?

    • Michiel Heijmans
      By Michiel Heijmans on 15 December, 2017

      Perhaps Google just finds another snippet of your page more suitable as a meta description: it happens. It’s a suggestion for Google.

      • Victor Winners
        By Victor Winners on 18 December, 2017

        Add: Also it might take a little while for google to get around to update the changes you made. It happened to me although the changes later got reflected.

  15. Hans Andersen
    By Hans Andersen on 15 December, 2017

    Great plugin, love and use it on all my sites. Hands down Yoast is the best WP plugin on the market. I enjoy all your posts aswell.

  16. Rahul Taneja
    By Rahul Taneja on 15 December, 2017

    Fantastic Article with great information. Really handly for beginners in SEO.

  17. mladen atanasov
    By mladen atanasov on 15 December, 2017

    Another great content from Yoast. Keep doing it that way.

  18. Prohindiblog
    By Prohindiblog on 15 December, 2017

    Amazing Articles Sir

  19. Gracious Store
    By Gracious Store on 15 December, 2017

    This is both an interesting and informative easy to read piece, it is the beginning of SEO optimization. Thanks for this information


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