Have you noticed longer meta descriptions when conducting Google searches? Google recently introduced new character limits to its search snippets; a decision that’s set to affect SEO in ways companies need to know.
Meta copy has long served as a best practice for content creation. For those unfamiliar, meta descriptions are the 1-2 sentences that appear beneath Google search results that describe what that content is about (see the screenshot above). Meta descriptions basically help readers decide whether or not to click the link to the article, Web page, etc. Important of note are the bolded words within the meta description, which note keywords that match those in the reader’s search query. So, though it may seem like meta copy is irrelevant, it is in fact very important for SEO purposes. If you’re still not sure why you need meta copy, this blog from HubSpot clearly lays out the benefits.
Up until November 2017, 90% of meta descriptions were 165 characters or less. This has been the meta copy standard for years simply because Google would cut off the description past this limit (searchers don’t want to read a description that cuts off mid-sentence). This new change, however, has opened the floodgates: there is no longer an official meta description recommended length. You can technically have a snippet the length of this paragraph (approx. 600 characters). Data analysts, however, suggest keeping descriptions under 300 characters to ensure optimal performance.
As recently as a week and a half after the character limit was changed, 50% of searches showed a longer snippet in at least 1 of the top 10 results. In the screenshot above, for example, you’ll see one longer snippet mixed in with several shorter ones.
So, how does this change SEO? For starters, it changes how meta descriptions should be written. More space to write allows for a completely different writing approach. But remember: pithy language is still key. Just because you have more space to write doesn’t mean you always need to fill up that space. In the end, you’re still working to provide readers a sufficient overview of a piece of content to help them make an informed decision about clinking on the link—you just have more space to do that now if it’s needed. If anything, use this extra space to more strategically integrate focused keywords.
Now, you might be thinking, “How does it help to provide readers the answer they’re looking for right in the search result?” Industry pundits believe there’s a greater chance Google will rank you higher for working in the reader’s best interest.
Good luck with your snippet optimization!