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I currently work on a site that has a quite dated search results page. We're looking at refreshing the design and have been conducting user testing which indicates that price and photos are the only things most of our users look at before deciding to click through to a product details page.

We currently carry a fair amount of other information on results including a snippet of the product description. Those snippets seem to contribute well towards our Google ranking on those results pages we allow them to crawl but users find them distracting.

It's worth noting that we don't allow crawling of all results pages. For example, we would have something like:

mydomain.com/search/flat-screen-TVs

as a crawlable page but not

mydomain.com/search?query=40+inch+tvs+with+hdmi+freeview+and+4k+resolution

I'd like to do the right thing for users and remove all of the superfluous information from results but I'm worried about the impact on SEO.

So, my question is in two parts:

  1. What methods/processes can I use to assess the likely impact of removing the product descriptions?
  2. If the risk of damaging our ranking is high, what approaches can I use to minimise the visual noise of text while keeping the SEO value (we'd considered just showing one line and keeping the rest of our short description behind a 'read more' slider but I'm worried that could be interpreted as bad behaviour)?
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You have a problem whether or not you have descriptions on your search pages: Google doesn't want to index your search results in their search results. You need to block your search results pages with robots.txt or add meta robots noindex tags to your search results pages.

If you continue to allow your search results to be indexed by Google, Google could penalize your entire site for it at any time.

The problem is especially bad if your search can generate a page with off-topic or spammy search terms. If a Google reviewer comes to your site, enters "Viagra" in your search box, and gets a crawlable page, your site will immediately get a manual penalty.

  • I should have noted, we only allow crawling of specific results URLs that tie in well with common search terms. Will update my question. – Skawn Dec 17 '14 at 17:43
  • So it isn't the "especially bad" case, but Google still doesn't want users to click from the Google search results only to find themselves on another page of search results. – Stephen Ostermiller Dec 17 '14 at 18:03
  • Interesting. We get quite a bit of traffic that way (around a third of organic search). Maybe we should be looking at pushing that to product details. – Skawn Dec 18 '14 at 10:04

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