How to take advantage of Google’s new meta title length
Since the beginning of December 2017 Google has officially extended the search engine result page (SERP) results to support meta descriptions up to 320 characters.
On top of that Google has also made some changes when it comes to displaying snippets in search results.
To avoid confusion, a “snippet” describes a page shown underneath the URL to help anyone find a page related to his or her organic search query.
According to Rank Ranger, you can see a dramatic increase of the snippet length from 160 to nearly 230 characters in just a few days.
What does it mean?
Most likely all your existing meta descriptions are shorter than 320 characters, below 150 characters.
In practice, because of the shorter meta description, Google may show snippets for your pages instead of using your meta descriptions.
We believe that for a specific search query Google just extracts the core content from your related page to populate the text in the snippet.
This reinforces the importance to write good content on all your pages.
How does it impact my website?
In essence, Google is replacing your existing meta descriptions with snippets from your related pages because they are much shorter than the new 320-character guideline.
On a side note, Google was already replacing in some cases your meta description with a snippet if their algorithms determined that they it is more relevant for a specific search query.
We would recommend spending some time analysing which snippets Google is choosing to display on the search results pages and to monitor your click-through-rate (CTR).
There is a risk that your existing snippets have a negative impact on your click-through-rate (CTR) because your current snippet may not be as appealing to your target audience.
Why is Google doing that?
From a general perspective, Google is becoming an AI company by leveraging machine learning heavily to improve their existing search engine.
Given the increasing amount of different connected devices with different screen sizes, Google is committed to displaying a valuable page description irrespectively of the device.
It is more accurate to call the snippets page descriptions because these are not defined in the HTML element like the meta description.
What are the benefits of increased meta description length?
There are some benefits because longer meta descriptions give you the ability to improve your messaging impact and even to add a strong call to action.
You also have the opportunity to highlight more clearly your USP to better differentiate yourself from your competition.
What should I do?
That is a good question. Here is what we would recommend:
- Monitor all your search related analytics to identify valuable insights.
- Optimise the meta descriptions especially for your landing pages with the highest search traffic.
- Update all your SEO plugins, tools and CMS to ensure that you can increase the length of your meta descriptions.
- Focus on adding relevant keywords in the meta description.
- Start writing longer meta descriptions for any new pages or content.
- If the majority of your organic traffic is coming from mobile, you may want to stay below 300 characters to avoid some of your text to be cut off in the snippet. Please note that you can’t define separate meta descriptions for desktop and mobile.