Preview web page search results

A tool to visualize & plan how important pages appear in search engine result pages

Understanding predictable aspects of a web page's appearance in search engine result pages for popular queries allows for the creation of titles, descriptions, and URLs that are more professional and attractive, increase CTRs and are generally more valuable to users. This tool simulates the most common appearance modifiers and guidelines that determine a listing's appearance—providing a quick and simple way to create and customize the desired appearance of your pages in SERPs.

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Appearance modifiers

Google style preview of search listing


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About this search results preview tool

Depending on the page and more importantly the search query, the ability to predict the appearance of a web page in an SERP may range from fairly easy to practically impossible. Understanding the aspects of a web page or query that are predictable allows website developers to craft titles, descriptions, and URLs that are more professional and attractive, increase CTR and are generally more valuable to users—it’s extremely beneficial for professional website design projects.

What this tool does and doesn’t account for

In researching how search engines display their results; lengths, wrapping, and bold phrases, I came across more criteria than are reasonable to list. It would look a lot like pseudo-code for the JavaScript file that powers this preview - and it wouldn’t be pretty. Instead, it will be a lot easier to list the shortcomings of this tool when compared to the actual SERPs.

Unfortunately, there were a few aspects of search engine result pages that either weren’t too easy to narrow down to a pattern or practical enough to implement when I did. The ones I came across include:

Bold acronyms, suffixes, plurals, etc.

Search engines often bold plurals, acronyms, suffixes, and other similar variations of words or phrases - but it’s not as easy as testing if two phrases match when adding “ing” an “s”, or combining/splitting words. The aspect of bold search phrases in this tool is thus not for determining which words the search engines will bold, but rather how a listing will appear when known or predictable searches turn the page up in an SERP, and also which parts of a long URL will be trimmed or cut...

Exact URL trim and length

If the URL contains phrases that relate to part of the search query, these phrases are made bold and will not be trimmed from the URL (unless there are too many of them). Instead, the search engine figures out less important parts to trim, and this tool locates then trims or bolds very similar parts. The conditions that cause search engines to trim parts of a URL are observable and, to a large degree, make sense as patterns. However, there are certain URL and query combinations that fall outside of the usual patterns, and although working quite well, this aspect is not 100% accurate.

Generated snippets or titles

Search engines may display content from the web page, the Open Directory Project (DMOZ) or the Yahoo! Directory rather than the page’s meta-description for the snippet. The title can also be replaced by DMOZ content on some search engines. The latter two replacement sources can be prevented with the tag <meta name="robots" content="noodp,noydir">, but ensuring that a web page’s meta-description is displayed for every query is impossible. This isn’t anything to worry about though, as the meta-description should focus on a page’s most targeted purpose and thus will be served for the majority of the most important queries. Even when it does get replaced - chances are the replacement text from your page will be of more value to the searcher, even if you cannot control the sales pitch quite yet.