Matt Cutts recently had an informative video explaining the basics of the search result structure. More appropriately called the anatomy of search engine result, this topic has been talked about in Google’s Webmaster blog and Search Engine Land. Vanessa Fox, a former employee at Google, also gave an in-depth recap of the video. By the way, the video can be viewed here:
Google doesn’t pull the contents of the title tag into the search results. Sometimes it picks up from an anchor text linking to that page or from Open Directory (DMOZ). Use <META NAME=”ROBOTS” CONTENT=”NOODP”> if you want to prevent Google from accessing Open Directory data and ensure that a <title> is used within the page.
Snippet is the term used to describe the piece of content located below the page title. This text will be extracted from the meta description tag, from text found within the page or again, from Open Directory. Use the same noodp method described above to prevent ODP use.
This is the “plus” sign you sometimes see on search result. It can contain stock quotes, company address or anything relevant to the search result being displayed.
Bold text is used to highlight to the user that the results page contains the relevant search term used as query and that the result was based on the query itself. Sometimes Google returns related terms and synonyms as a result of the stemming, pluralization and morphology methods employed to deliver relevant search results.
Cached page returns the version of the page as it was last accessed by Google. So we can tell that Google may have not visited the page recently if the content of the cached page is already outdated. This page is also helpful to webmasters who have accidentally deleted files; they can load the cache page and retrieve contents, although it may not be the latest version.
Search engines also show other elements such as:
1. URL of the page, the page size (he showed the sample from Starbucks homepage as relatively fast loading at 12kb size)
2. The number of hours since the page has been accessed (for pages that are freshly indexed)
3. “More results from” link which connects to a list of URLs from the same domain name, useful to users who are looking for other pages within the site
4. “Note this” is unique to Google, as it allows the particular search result to be “jotted down” to Google Notebook.
A list of links found within the site described. It contains links to popular pages and may change in displayed title compared to its original text to streamline results or display a more descriptive page. Vanessa has an article about sitelinks. Matt Cutts emphasized that Google doesn’t approach company owners to have customized sitelinks appearance for a fee. The process is entirely algorithmic and doesn’t require a fee.
Other versions of search results can be found at Google Experimental Search where we can see different versions of search results aimed to improve search experience.