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Some European News Publishers Are Losing Google Snippets. Could You?

Google is removing featured snippets and images from news sites that display in French search results. Why? And could it happen in the U.S., too?

If you’re a European news publisher, you’re probably feeling the mighty hand of the most powerful search engine flexing its muscles right now. Google haveth, Google taketh, and Google tweaketh.

In response to new French copyright law, Google is removing featured snippets and images from news sites that display in French search results. Publishers will now need to “opt-in” for their images and text to be shown.

Here’s an excerpt from Google’s blog about the recent change.

“In the wake of new copyright law in France, Google will change the way it presents search results for European press publications to people in that country. Specifically, Google will no longer present snippets and thumbnail images in France for these publications unless publishers displaying content in France have specified how much of this content they want to show in search results.”

No big deal, right? This is just happening in France. Au contraire, mon petit chou. The change impacts all European news sites and could trickle across the pond to American websites, too.

For now, European news sites will need to tell Google how much content from a web page to display in image and text snippets or miss out on being displayed in featured snippets and preview results–coveted spots when you’re competing for organic clicks.

This move comes about a week after Google’s announcement that all websites could implement special snippet settings to control further how their content is (or isn’t) displayed in search.

The new snippet controls include:

  • “Nosnippet” – This is an existing option to specify that you don’t want any textual snippet shown for this page.
  • “Max-snippet:[number]” – New! Specify a maximum text-length, in characters, of a snippet for your page.
  • “Max-video-preview:[number]” – New! Specify a maximum duration in seconds of an animated video preview.
  • “Max-image-preview:[setting]” – New! Specify a maximum size of image preview to be shown for images on this page, using either “none”, “standard”, or “large”.

Why is Google pushing French news publishers to use the new snippet controls or miss out on special search features? At first, you might think it’s because Google wants to encourage more content creators, publishers, and those of us that work to make the Internet a better place to take control of their content. And you might be right. That’s part of the reasoning.

But French President Emmanuel Macron has a different opinion, notes the Los Angeles Times. Macron believes this is Google’s way around paying to publish excerpts from European publications on Google News.

France is the first country to put the European Union’s Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market on its statute books. France’s law allows publishers to request money from platforms like Google and Facebook when displaying their content online.

According to estimates by some French publishers, their sector loses between 250 million and 320 million euros per year in revenue due to Google and Facebook’s online advertising power.

Publishers were hoping to recoup some costs with the EU Directive.

Why do we care on this side of the pond?

1 – If the U.S. adopts a similar Directive on Copyright for news websites or web content in general, then we’ll need to be very strategic about documenting current featured snippets, the keyphrases that trigger them, and testing snippet controls on an ongoing basis. There’s a chance that you could inadvertently alter your content in such a way that it doesn’t show up for keyphrases it once did. Google currently analyzes billions of web pages and presents the text or image snippet it believes best matches the user’s query.

U.S. publishers/site owners will need to do the analysis themselves should Google choose to no longer present snippets and thumbnail images for sites that haven’t specified how much of their content they want to show in search results–but without the algorithms and billions of web pages at their disposal.

2 – Even if Google is trying to sidestep paying publishers, their “snippet controls” do give content owners worldwide more choice in what and how content is displayed. Publishers/site owners will need to think critically about their content, keyphrases, and organic strategy–and that’s good! The world deserves an Internet filled with thoughtful content, not just content.

Use snippet controls to your advantage

The U.S. may never see legislation like the EU Directive. Even so, Google’s new snippet controls are worth experimenting with, primarily because you may be able to increase click-through rate.

  • “Max-snippet:[number]” – A majority of Google searches result in no clicks. Currently, a user is highly unlikely to click through once they view your information on a search results page. If you can control how much of your content is displayed and which part (especially in featured snippets as direct answers), you could increase your click-through rate.
  • “Max-video-preview:[number]” – Same thing with videos. Set the maximum duration in seconds of a video preview so that the viewer is teased and enticed to click.

Snippet controls aren’t the only way content publishers and businesses can control how they’re found and seen in search results. Other search visibility tactics include link sculpting, targeted content, and schema markup — to name a few. Are you putting any to use? Let’s find out! Contact GPO today if you have questions about these tactics and others. We can quickly identify ways you can be found by the right searchers, at the right time, and for the right keyphrases.

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