Sunday, November 27, 2016

Snippets in Google Search Results

It's always a challenge to figure out how Google picks the snippets it puts into search results.  Of course, this isn't an academic exercise, the purpose is to build your pages and content and code so that the most user friendly snippets are chosen not in general, but for each specific search.

The reason that I'm interested in this right now is that I do NOT like seeing results which mess up a trademark.  The name of the site, a registered and valuable trademark, is "VocabularySpellingCity" Registered Trademark.  Why is Google often providing: "Spelling City" as a result? Where the heck are they getting this from?

I think the problem is that in grabbing text, there is a statement relating to a site wide logo which reads this way:

<div class='site-logo'><a href='/title='Vocabulary Spelling Cityrel='home'>

Somehow, Google grabs this code and uses it. And since the word "Spelling" appears separated from "VocabularySpellingCity", this opens the door to them grabbing it. BTW, I can't really seem to think through the logic that would have them grabbing that but since this is the only place where I can see that they can find: "Spelling City" written like that, it seems the easiest way forward is to fix this random poor use of our name and see if that ends the problem with the snippet that so annoys me.

BTW, I'm going to use figurative language as a test case.  This seems appropriate since we're looking for a needle in a haystack, it's like one of Hercules tasks. It's an endless battle to keep our site managed in a way that supports Google protocols for being a good white hat site.  Was that enough figurative language for you?


Search on "vocabulary spellingcity"

VocabularySpellingCity | Build Literacy Skills with Vocabulary and ...

build vocabulary, literacy, phonics, & spelling skills with VocabularySpellingCity. Improve vocabulary, a core reading skill, with gamified context-rich.

The homepage result is now 2nd but it appears to the user like this:

Spelling City

build vocabulary, literacy, phonics, & spelling skills with VocabularySpellingCity. Improve vocabulary, a core reading skill, with gamified context-rich.

A search on "figurative language spellingcity" produces:

Figurative Language - Spelling City

Figurative language can be part of reading, writing, comprehension, and vocabulary instruction. Grade-level teachers include similes, metaphors, personification, idioms, and hyperbole in their lesson plans.

A search on "figurative language" produces:

Figurative Language Overview | VocabularySpellingCity

A student who blurts out “I'm so hungry, I could eat a horse!” right before lunch may not realize he or she is using figurative languageFigurative language ...


Ilan Berkner said...

From what I can tell at the moment, there are potentially several reasons that Google is returning the results that you are seeing (instead of the ones you are expecting):

1) The canonical URL tags for the site are telling Google that the canonical URL is "" and not "". To see this, view the source of the home page and look for the word "canonical" and you'll see the tag that points to (I'm including it below, but not sure if it will show as HTML code in the comment):

link rel="canonical" href=""

2) When a visitor goes to "", they are redirected to "". I would suggest reversing that action and redirecting

3) You should review the links that are being submitted to google via webmaster tools. If links are being submitted with the "" URL instead of the "vocab" URL, that may also need to be changed, although I think that if you are able to resolve (1) and (2), that may not matter as much.

I'd love to know if the above suggestions worked.

Johne said...

Thanks for your thoughts.

1. We have spent a chunk of this year prioritizing the projects to update VocabSpellingCity to keep it a cutting edge service. The projects that have been implemented (with links so people can see it) are:

- Switching all the games and activities into HTML5.0 from FLASH:

- Improving the student, teacher, and administrator user experience switching to nice visual well-tested interfaces: For example:

- Improving our impact educationally which means shifting to being as focused on training and helping the schools and teachers as on the software. The impact of this infuses the site but includes:
- Our Journey to Vocabulary:
- While Papers with training materials on improving vocabulary to improve comprehension:

- Becoming fully responsive and mobile friendly. Through out the site

We have evaluated the effort and benefit of switching the URL to SpellingCity and so far, it has not been implemented but it certainly is on the backlog of projects to be considered

My question really focused on our research as to why Google appends (and this is the exact format including): "Spelling City" to many page titles. Maybe I'll put an image of it on the original post. Our hunting is for where that exact wording is coming from....

We should implement that little change this am....