Google recently upgraded the way it displays content for site specific search results. You can quickly view the upgrade by doing a Google search for either Macy’s or Home Depot. It’s pretty cool, now when you’re searching just by company name Google will show you a few navigation links, along with a small page description underneath.
I began to wonder where was Google pulling this information from and started searching for clues within the content of the sitelink pages. If you look at the Macys.com site you’ll realized that there aren’t any drop down menus and the only alt text available is a description of the menu in it’s simplest form; e.x. “Women” for the Women menu. In looking at the Home Depot site menu, its a whole other story. When hovering over its navigational menus Home Depot will show the sub-categories capitalized in white and sub-sub-categories are nested below in gray. It doesn’t seem that Google pulls the site navigation descriptions from either image alt descriptions or sub-menus.
I decided to just COMMAND-F/CTRL-F some of the sitelink descriptions. In the case of Home Depot I grabbed the term “ROOFING INSTALLATION” and looked for it within the “Building Materials” section of the site. Funny enough I found it in the right-rail. It isn’t really part of any sub-navigation but an AD for their roofing installation service. I did the same thing for Macy’s and in the case of “Womens” in took the sitelink description directly from the pages meta description tag. I wondered why Google would utilize Macy’s description tag and not Home Depot.
Home depots meta description tag reads “Building materials & Building Supplies at The Home Depot”. It turns out Home Depots description might’ve gotten ignored because Google is interpreting the overuse of the word “Building” as borderline spam. Also that meta description lacks any real compelling actionable click-through phrases. Next I investigated the Gardening section and found that it’s sitelink description is also pulled from the right-rail. The description tag once again begins with the name of the page “Garden Center, Landscaping, Trees & Plants Care at The Home Depot” and just like the aforementioned section it seems to lack any verbs. All it does is list keywords and phrases without any real action words.
So it looks like Google might first pay attention to a page meta description tag if it contains verbs and nouns that can lead the user somewhere. Another reason why going the white hat SEO route is always the way to go and content is king.