In December 2017, Google extended the length of meta descriptions on the search engine results page. The meta description is the text under the title, describing what users can expect when they click on your page. Usually, this is what you manually input, but sometimes, Google chooses the description from your website if it seems more relevant to the query.
Why the Change?
According to Google, they decided to lengthen meta descriptions so that brands had more room to be descriptive. By allowing more characters, the meta description can give readers more information and help them make a better decision on which link to click.
How Much Longer Are They?
While there has been no official statement from Google about the new length, many companies have been tracking them. They came to the conclusion that instead of the 160-character limit Google has had in the past, they now allow approximately 300 characters. So you basically double your real estate to help you to draw in users, encourage clicks, and boost your SEO efforts.
Should I Go Change All My Descriptions?
While it might be tempting to expand all of your meta descriptions immediately, this should go on the bottom of your to-do list. This is for many reasons:
- Google doesn’t always show the meta description that you input, so even if you change it, they still might show an excerpt from your page instead.
- Even if you write extended meta description, there is still not even a guarantee they will show the entire description. You might end up with an ellipsis on the SERPs, which may not be good for CTR.
- Meta descriptions are not a ranking factor. Yes, they can impact your click through rate, but you should first put your efforts toward ranking factors—because if you aren’t ranking well nobody will see your meta description anyway.
- This updated meta description length may not stick. Google has changed their mind before, so they could very well go back to the shorter lengths in a few months.
If you feel like you want to capitalize on the extended length of meta descriptions, your best option is to start with your top ranking organic pages. These are the ones most likely to be seen, and the extended description—if used by Google—could give you an edge against shorter meta descriptions. If you do change them on your primary target pages, make sure to add in an annotation in analytics and see what kind of impact it has, if any.
What About New Content?
When creating new content, we think that you may as well implement the longer character count. If Google uses your extended meta description, you can increase your presence on the SERPs and boost your click through rate, and if they don’t, you are no worse off.
Also, just a side note, while leaving the meta description blank and letting Google have full control over choosing a meta description from the page itself is also an option, it is risky. The meta descriptions chosen are not always the best for CTR. With your own meta description, you at least have a chance of optimizing the content to attract clicks.
Other Important Lengths to Know
While we are talking about the proper lengths for SEO, let’s review a couple more:
- Meta Title – The sweet spot for the meta title is between 60 and 70 characters. If you do any more than this, the reader won’t see your entire title, and if you do much less, you might not give the reader enough of a reason to click.
- Blog Post – When it comes to organic SEO, your content is crucial. You need to have quality, informative content that is well written, and it needs to be long enough to offer value to the reader. Google prefers blogs that contain around 2,000 words, but make sure you still make them easy to skim with bullet points and subheads.
When embarking on an SEO campaign, it is the small nuances that make a world of difference. To learn more about the proper lengths for all of your SEO efforts, or to find out how we can incorporate SEO into a comprehensive marketing strategy, contact us now.