Surprise! Google Changed How Search Results Pages Appear Again
If you’ve ever worked with Google, you know that nothing stays the same for long. In December 2017, Google made the snippets on search results pages (SERPs) longer. What’s a snippet? How does this affect what a meta description should contain? Great questions. Let’s start with a snippet.
If you don’t want to Google it, here’s a very meta example. Snippets are a paragraph of text within a web page, blog post, article, etc. that Google grabs and puts at the top of the search results page as a method of trying to give you the answer you’re looking for.
Snippets went from 165 characters to 320, allowing for more content to be displayed on the page. In the photo above, you can see that you get a pretty concise answer without having to click on the page to learn more. When they were shorter, and the text tended to be cut off, there was an incentive for people to click. However, now it’s likely that some searchers will be satisfied with the information that is just in the snippet and then move on.
Unfortunately, the change might have a negative impact on click-through rates because if your content does show up in the snippet, it could be all people need, and if you’re not, users might be less inclined to scroll down the page to see other results because the snippet had the answer.
Understanding What a Meta Description Should Contain Will Help You Better Optimize for the New Update
How do these longer snippets affect how you write your meta descriptions? The obvious is that you have more space to work with. The old limit of 165 characters now can go up to 320, but most SEO experts are recommending you stick right around 300.
Just like the Twitter character update, extended meta descriptions give you a lot more room to say what you want about your content, and it can help you grab more attention. Here’s an example of what the new length looks like in search results.
You can see that just like the snippets, longer meta descriptions give you more information and might give you exactly what you’re looking for without having to click. If, in this case, you want to remember one of the best quotes from The Office, it’s all in the description. Don’t @ us.
But you still want the click, so how do you make people interested in the rest of what you have to say? The way you’ve been writing meta descriptions needs to change. Start using the additional 135 characters to your advantage.
If meta descriptions never mattered to you before, try giving them a little more respect. These chunks of text are going to drive traffic to your site, so don’t copy and paste the first couple sentences out of the content you’ve written.
Think of your meta descriptions as a preview. Spend a couple of minutes crafting 300 characters about your piece that tells what it is and what you want people to do. This could be as easy as adding “Learn more about how we use bikes at work to hit our exercise goals for the day here,” at the end. Your audience, which is hopefully interested in biking, will likely be more inclined to click if they know more about what you’re going to talk about. You want to show them that you can provide value outside of the chunk talking briefly about your desired keyword.
A well-written meta description is always an excellent way to boost your SERP placement, and now with more space to write, you won’t have to struggle to cram in a sentence or two about your piece so that it won’t be cut off. 300 characters offer more space than you think, and this room to stretch out can help you hit your target keyword more than once to give your page an extra boost.
If you think about the actual SERP page, more length for meta descriptions means your page will take up more space. Before the change, pages with no meta descriptions or just a word or two looked awkward and untrustworthy. With 300 characters, these pages are going to look even worse, but pages with only 165 characters are going to look weird as well.
What’s our recommendation for the change? Block out some time to go through your existing meta descriptions and re-optimize them for better length. Try to reference your keyword twice to hammer home that you are a thought leader on the topic, and leave your readers wanting more. If your page does end up getting pulled into a snippet at the top of the page, you’ll be glad that your content is written to be enticing, so you’re not missing out on the opportunity for new eyes on your website.