Earlier in December, Google acknowledged that it has expanded the number of characters in text snippets it displays on SERPs. While there is no hard and fast number, the number of characters being displayed generally ranges from 230 to 320. Formerly, the meta description character limit was in the 160-180 range.
What Does the New Rule Mean for SEO?
Google’s goal is to make its organic results more descriptive, which will help users identify the most relevant content. Should SEOs make a mad dash for the keyboard and expand all of their meta descriptions? Here are some thoughts — please feel free to share yours in comments.
- Google will still use discretion and common sense in determining how many characters to display in snippets for any given query. Search queries about complex topics justify longer snippets. For instance, for the query “did Shakespeare write his plays”, character counts on the SERP are noticeably longer than for the query “Chicago plumber”. Organizations involved with education, the sciences, news reporting and analysis, technical products/services, etc., will immediately benefit from expanding meta descriptions.
- For organizations in any field, meta descriptions can now be made more informative — and persuasive — than ever. Since conversions are the ultimate goal of SEO, earning more click-throughs with stronger snippets is worth a good test, at minimum. A good place to start testing: your target product and service pages.
- There is also the possibility that shorter is better. A user likes to scan, and scanning 100 characters is easier than plowing through 320. If your products and services lend themselves to brief, high-impact meta description content, the snippets may stand out even more if everyone else’s are twice or three times as long. Again, it’s worth testing.
- Over time, as snippet length expands on SERPs, there will be fewer organic results on the page. This makes it all the more important to make every dollar count in an SEO campaign.
Over to You
How do you think longer meta descriptions will affect your SEO execution and results?