Google Increases Meta Description Length
I’m usually late to the “SEO’s break the news” game. Sometimes because I don’t see the tests (changes) happening right away, but mostly because I don’t blog about changes right away. I’ve got other shit going on. There are plenty of articles and whiteboards out there already about what an increase in meta descriptions means. I’ll break it down quickly, but I’m more interested in how Digital Marketers can take advantage of this change.
I noticed a few SERP’s with longer meta descriptions in mid-November. I thought it was a bit odd but also knew that Google sometimes displayed longer descriptions for businesses which were close to earning a featured snippet. Thus, I didn’t think much about it. Then, in mid-December, Danny Sullivan noted that G changed the meta description length from 160(ish) characters to nearly 320 characters. Let’s dive in and determine what this means for SEO’s and searchers.
Yes. It’s not your imagination. Our snippets on Google have gotten slightly longer. And agree with @rustybrick — don’t go expanding your meta description tags. It’s more a dynamic process. https://t.co/O1UTyFeNfA
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) December 1, 2017
Rand does a good job of breaking down what this will mean for SEO’s in his Whiteboard Friday (linked above). He sums up what this will mean in 2 basic ways:
- It changes how SEO’s should write and optimize the metas
- It may (will) impact CTR – emphasis mine
His third point is still valid, it just reverts back to his second point on CTR.
Would it surprise anyone if Google removed a few results on Page 1 now as well? Look at this search below. 4 LARGE ads, Local Pack, 10 Organic listings, 3 more ads and then Related Searches. This page is growing by the day. With as big as those metas are now, I wouldn’t be surprised if G starts removing a couple of those bottom Organic listings. They will say no one is clicking on those anyway…..
Searchers will now see more content on Page 1 than ever. See my comments above. They will be given more descriptive snippets about the query they are searching and may be able to make a purchasing decision or find an answer to a question without leaving Google. This is another example of Google trying to make themselves the home page of your website. For informational searches, this works out great for G. For ecommerce sites, you have a better opportunity to sell a potential customer prior to them visiting your competitors website. Better make those metas stand out.
So how do you do it?
How do you prioritize what pages to update? It makes sense to start with the pages on your website which get the most traffic – home page, contact page, practice areas, services, main products, and blog posts.
Do a Google search for your clients website and see what pages show up on the first page. These are the pages Google believes are the most important. Look at GWT to determine which terms get a good number of impressions and are ranking in the top 10. With a little help, these pages have an opportunity to move up the SERPs.
Accurate and High Quality
It is important your meta descriptions be accurate. The longer meta summary should correctly describe the content on your page and provide enough information for users to click through to your website. Keyword stuffing or other spam tactics will not entice users to visit your website, as it will provide little to no value for them. Make the descriptions of high enough quality where you could potentially get a featured snippet or at the very least, create a good user experience.
Even when meta descriptions were 165, you should have been adding CTA’s. With longer meta’s, you can continue taking advantage. Use actionable words such as “Learn how to”, “Discover”, “Read more about”, “Free Consultation”, “No Fee”, “Free Trial”, “Sign Up”, etc.
A clear CTA in your meta description will let the user know what they should be doing once they click through to the page. This could be the decisive factor between clicking on your result, or your competitors.
Match the Content on the Page
Make sure the meta descriptions you create are matching the content on the page. This is SEO 101, but if a meta description is misleading, it will not be a good customer experience and users will bounce off of the website quickly. In addition, a potential ranking issue could arise as users will be clicking through to the website, bounce out and move to another fairly quickly.
You can see this in action now. If you use keywords or synonyms in the meta description, Google is more likely to use the meta description, highlight and bold the keywords in the SERP, and thus make the result more attractive to users.
Be sure to use as much of the character limit as possible. If Google is going to give you something positive to use, you better use it. Users should have a good idea of what your business is about, what the page is about and what to do once they get to the page once they make the decision to click on a result.
In addition, if the meta description is less than 100 characters, you are limiting your result as the meta will only be on one line of text. If your competitors are using 300 characters and have 3-4 lines in the SERP while you only have 1, you have minimal chance of getting the click.
This goes along with all of the above mentioned. More space equals more opportunity. Make sure you have keywords, CTA’s, and an accurate description. Even if you are not able to rank in the top half of the searchers, a descriptive meta may attract attention and clicks. You are able to provide valuable, accurate information which will resonate with your target customers.
Getting your clients on Page 1 will become an even higher priority now (if that’s even possible). If users are reading longer meta descriptions on Page 1, they may not bother moving to Page 2. Make sure the meta descriptions are lengthy, accurate, have a CTA and describe what the page is really about. After all, the game is all about clicks. If your clients are not getting them, their competitors are.