Google has decided that bigger is better when it comes to organic search snippets and meta description lengths. Previously the search snippet was capped at 165 characters for the majority of search results. That worked out to be about two to three lines of text that appeared underneath search results. Now internet searchers will see that length nearly doubled, to three to five lines of text in most cases. There were times previously when Google would have a longer search snippet for specific types of search results, but before December more than 90 percent of search snippets were 165 characters or less. Now that meta description length changed there is a major opportunity to rewrite meta descriptions for the most important landing pages on your website.
Bigger Real Estate
Additional text is good news for SEO because it means more room to promote brands. What’s even better is that digital marketers who leave their meta description tags alone will still see an improved presence in the search engine results pages. Up until recently, the maximum allowable characters in the meta description tag stood at 160. Now that limit has been raised to 320 characters. While there is no official new recommended length from Google, the suggestion is to keep meta descriptions between 250 and 300 characters.
With bigger real estate to work with, there is a lot that marketers can do with the new allowable space, and it depends on the type of website being promoted. One option is to provide a more in-depth synopsis of your article. That extra information might be exactly what you need to get more clicks to your webpage. With twice the space you might have more opportunities for clickbait text than you had in the past.
Another option is to use the larger space as an opportunity to answer consumer questions more directly within the meta description. Doing so could capture additional featured snippets for your brand.
You might choose to populate the meta description with search terms related to your primary keyword. That will give the Google algorithm the sense that you’re authentic. However, one thing you should not do is look at the longer length as an opportunity for keyword stuffing.
Marketers promoting eCommerce sites will want to take a different approach to the expanded length. For these websites, you could start by providing more details about the product you are selling. Use the extra space to promote the benefits of the product. Don’t just tell the what, squandering the space by using it to include dimensions and technical details. Use the space to explain the why to your customers.
Although Google doesn’t use the meta description tag for ranking purposes, it still parses it. That tag gives both Google and visitors a little more information about the contents of your page. Sometimes Google will show the meta description in the SERPs. But Google doesn’t always show the meta description contents in the search snippet.
Google wants to display page contents that are more relevant to the user’s search. The meta description might not contain the keywords the user has searched for even if those keywords are found on the page itself. In that case, Google might instead show a snippet from the article itself. This way the user sees that the search result is relevant to the keyword.
No Action Required
While you can rework meta descriptions to take advantage of longer character lengths you don’t have to do anything with this new change. Because Google will extract a search snippet from your site that’s relevant to the users search you win without doing anything. And Google will take advantage of the expanded length available to provide even more detail to the user.
While there is an opportunity to rewrite meta descriptions for the most important landing pages on your website, you don’t, and shouldn’t, rewrite all of your meta descriptions. For future blog posts and landing pages, you should write a meta description that’s longer than 160 characters. It’s also important to note that the snippet length will vary.
One potential downside to the increased length is the possibility of a decrease in click-through rates for search results that are located lower on page one. As longer featured snippets will take up additional space at the top of the page users could be less likely to scroll to the bottom of the page. With longer snippets, they could also find what they are looking for more quickly and precisely. On the other hand, there may be an increase in click-through rates for search results that rank higher on page one.
Now that meta description length changed marketers have twice the characters to promote their brands. While no action is required on old web pages there is an opportunity to rewrite meta descriptions on the most important landing pages. Looking forward, make sure to take advantage of the new length on future blog posts and product detail pages, giving users a reason to click on your webpage.