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So I Google search for a dictionary term, and none of the sites' Google snippets actually defines that term. Instead they are presented in this format:

enter image description here

Here's the actual page it links to from The Free Dictionary.

The term is used a lot in a block of text that teases the user into clicking the link, but the page doesn't visibly appear to have this content at all.

It entices the user and requires a click through for them to find the actual information they want. What is this called? Is this considered cloaking or is it otherwise a violation of SEO best practices?

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"In light of" appears at the top left of the page –  John Conde Dec 29 '11 at 23:09
    
I mean the text in the snippet, not the definition; "Definition of X in the Idioms Dictionary..." that text isn't on the actual page. Apparently they are using the content attribute which I was unfamiliar with. Rather than presenting organic text from the page (which might actually define "in light of") they're presenting teaser text to the user in the result itself. –  Ben Brocka Dec 29 '11 at 23:26
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1 Answer

up vote 5 down vote accepted

This is not cloaking.

The Free Dictionary is simply using the (well known) description meta-tag. Here is the full content of the tag on that page.

<meta name="description" content="Definition of in light of in 
the Idioms Dictionary. in light of phrase. What does in light 
of expression mean? Definitions by the largest Idiom Dictionary.">

The description meta-tag is one of the best places for page owners to craft how search results are presented in the Google SERPs. It's up to Google whether to use it or not, but in this case, Google has decided that this is an accurate and helpful representation of the content of the page.

The practice could be described a couple of ways, including 'meta tag optimisation' or 'search engine result presentation'. But it should be a standard part of your SEO toolkit.

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+1 This is a nice example of the meta description not needing to strictly be a direct excerpt of the page content. –  Su' Dec 30 '11 at 9:20
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