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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Search Listings and Informational Queries

Search engine results pages communicate a lot of information in individual search listings, including what search engines determine to be searcher intent. For example, suppose a searcher wishes to buy a refrigerator, a high-ticket item. Before going to the store and purchasing a refrigerator, he wishes to see the types of fridges available since he has not had to purchase a fridge for a very long time. To establish a frame of reference, he only types in a single keyword, refrigerators, as shown in Figure 4.9:

Figure 4.9

Figure 4.9 Search engine results page for the query word refrigerators.

What might the arrangement and placement of these search listings communicate to us? First, we see a wide variety of listing types supporting varied intentions among various searchers. In the search listings are:

  • Product review pages
  • A government website
  • Category pages
  • Shopping search listings
  • Wikipedia

Whenever you see a Wikipedia listing appear on the first page of web search results, it is a strong indication that the search engine has determined that the keyword (or keyword phrase) is an informational query. Wikipedia is an informational website. In contrast, online retail sites are primarily transactional sites.

Therefore, whenever a website owner sees a Wikipedia listing appear in search results, she should immediately think, "Are there pages on my website that meet searchers' informational needs?" If not, then it is unrealistic to expect pages from your site to appear at the top of search results for that query type. Adding appropriate product reviews, how-to tips, and maybe an FAQs section can help your site appear in web search results for informational query words.

By focusing only on transactional queries and ignoring informational queries, many site owners are probably losing initial sales and potential lifetime customers. Wikipedia listings can actually help remind site owners to build more effective information into their sites. Retailer listings can peacefully coexist with Wikipedia listings. No one ever lost a sale to Wikipedia.

In web search results, the listing title and description/snippet are the most important elements for searchers with informational goals. Informational searchers want to be sure that they are clicking a link that delivers them to desired content. So they take the extra time to read the listing description/snippet (Figure 4.10). The URL becomes less important to searchers because the desired information, not necessarily the URL, is the main target.

Figure 4.10

Figure 4.10 For an informational query, the two most important items in a search listing are (1) the title-tag content, and (2) the page snippet or meta-tag description.

On one hand, many major search engines use the meta-tag description when displaying a page's (or file's) listing. The content in the meta-tag description should accomplish the following:

  • Encourage searchers to click the link to your web page.
  • Reinforce content that is already available (and visible to users) on the page, and as a result provides and validates the scent of information.
  • Help to obtain top positions in the search results for search engines that use meta-tag descriptions to determine rankings.

On the other hand, search engines do not always take listing descriptions from meta-tag descriptions. Search engines might take the listing description from other on-the-page content, or use a combination of the two. For this reason, meta-tag content should reinforce the most important keyword phrases description already available on a web page.

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