Back in December, Google increased meta descriptions from 160 characters to 320 characters. Just how will this affect your meta description length? Well, there are plenty of factors to consider.
Why did Google do it?
Straight from the source, a Google spokesperson told Search Engine Land:
“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.”
Always keeping its visitors in mind, Google made the update to make snippets more descriptive and useful.
Desktop vs. Mobile
While the lengthened meta descriptions allows you to be more descriptive, it’s important to consider that the lengthened description may not show on mobile. Often, on mobile, it cuts off between 110-120 characters. Minimum, meta descriptions should always be at least 100 characters long, so meeting this minimum is perfectly sufficient for mobile.
However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use all 320 characters. A longer description may more adequately explain your business, product, or content, and make it more likely for a potential customer to click. In this case, it may be worth it to extend beyond the 110-120 for mobile. Just make sure to pack as much important information in the first 100-120 characters and use the remaining character count to support the first 120 characters.
Do I need to overhaul all of my meta descriptions?
Search Engine Land says no. Google will likely display meta descriptions based on user query; they’ll pull the most relevant information from your content, making it more useful to the user. It’ll also improve the likelihood that they’ll click you. Win-win.
For your higher-value content, it may be worth it to change the meta to meet the extended length. Just know that if Google feels that it can create a better description to meet a specific query, it likely will. Also, continue writing meta for any new content; this is still important to your SEO.
How will this affect CTR?
It is possible that click-through rate (CTR) may go down as a result of the longer snippets. Because the snippets are more descriptive, users may find the answer to their question within the snippet. They won’t need to go to your page to learn the answer. This can be a good or bad thing. If you rely on ad revenue, this may harm your page. However, if you’re trying to build a positive brand perception, the snippet may be enough to help users find what they need and start creating a positive brand relationship – they may come back to your brand as a source in the future.
Also note that it’s possible that being further down the page may make you even less visible than before. Because snippets are longer, the first couple of listings take up more space, pushing lower ranked websites further down the page.
Change the Way You Think About Meta Descriptions
The increased meta description length will forever change how you write your metas. Expand on important details, be more descriptive, and be more relevant than ever to your target consumers. Know that this change may affect click-through, but try to see it as a way to build on your brand value. It’s also important to remember that mobile will show differently, an important consideration when deciding meta length. Despite all of this, embrace the update and use your increased space to draw in new customers!