In early December, Google made a huge change that immediately impacted search results. What they did was increase the length of the so called “snippets” in Google searches.
What this means is that searches that previously looked like this:
now look like this:
Notice how there’s now more words in the “snippet,” the content area below the title of the search result? In SEO, we call this so called Snippet the “meta description.” Google has essentially made this meta description show up to 230 characters instead of the 155 characters shown previously.
Although it may not seem like much, this change is huge for both SEO’s and local business owners alike. Read on to learn more.
Why is the Meta Description Important?
The meta description, of course, describes what a web page is about. The meta description is super important because when people read it, it can cause them to a webpage on your site. That’s good because the more people click to your web page, that means that your organic click through rate increases. When your organic click through rate (or CTR) goes up, this usually means better rankings. That’s great! Everyone knows that being at the top of Google helps businesses grow.
The other reason why the meta description is important is because you can strategically put keywords into it that will help rankings. There are some people in the SEO world that will tell you that Google doesn’t pay attention to meta description for ranking purposes, but I highly disagree. Why? Because, while working with clients on a weekly basis, I always see a better rankings with my clients because I “optimize” or clean up the meta descriptions on my client’s site. Because of this, the data I’m seeing indicates that Google definitely pays attention to the meta descriptions.
The Longer Meta Description
Why did Google make the meta description longer? They did this so that searchers can more easily find the answer in within the meta description without having to click on a web page to learn more.
And now, the official statement from Google:
“We recently made a change to provide more descriptive and useful snippets, to help people better understand how pages are relevant to their searches. This resulted in snippets becoming slightly longer, on average.”
Interesting. I consider this both good and bad.
This change is good because because longer meta descriptions will likely improve organic CTR rates. Better organic CTR rates mean better rankings. Better rankings mean more emails from contract forms, calls, and walk-ins for local businesses.
This change could be bad because Google seems to be moving towards keeping users on the search itself and not going to websites to find answers. If Google continues this trend, they might do more things to keep people from going from searches to websites. In the end, this would mean less traffic coming to websites from Google. Not so good.
How will this impact SEO?
This just happened about a month ago, “the jury is out” so to say as far as how this longer meta description will impact SEO.
These are questions that SEO’s are asking:
- Should we change the length of existing meta descriptions? While some say that it’s best to leave old meta descriptions the same for now, I would suggest going back and making meta description of the the ranking pages on your site longer. From there, you can go back and make all of your meta descriptions longer on the rest of the pages and blog posts on your sites.
- How will this affect meta descriptions going forward? It’s too early to say, but my prediction is that the longer meta description will allow for more natural organic language within the description itself. This means that there will be less keyword stuffing and more room for branding and call to action. That will likely lead to even higher organic CTR’s.
- How long should we make new meta descriptions? After doing research, my suggestion is the make all your new meta descriptions about 100 characters in length. This is because Google now shows up to 100 characters in mobile search results. In my opinion, the best thing is to optimize for mobile because mobile searches now represent more than half of all searches.
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