On November 22 this year, Google decided to switch up the rules regarding SEO, more specifically the meta description tag. Rather than sticking with the concise limit of between 150-165 characters (including spaces and punctuation), Google decided to extend the accepted word count to between 230 and 320 characters. Any longer and the meta description tag will be cut off automatically.
This is an example of what Google refers to as a ‘snippet’, which according to their Google Webmasters page on the subject “is completely automated and takes into account both the content of a page as well as references to it that appear on the web.” These snippets consist of descriptions pulled from a web page that describe what exactly that page is about. Often, Google will use the meta description tag applied to a page if it gives visitors a more accurate description than it would be possible from only the actual on-page content.
Basically, it’s the meta description tag that can help improve clickthrough rates to a website.
What else do I need to know about this?
Instead of there being purely meta description tags that are 1-2 lines long when you look something up online, now you’re more likely to find 3 to 4 lines of text under each title tag (a.k.a. the clickable links leading to websites in search engine result pages, or SERPs). This will change the way your website appears in these results, both on desktop and mobile devices, because now Google wants to display content from pages that are even more relevant to what people are searching for online.
It’s also good news in a way, because now, rather than trying to cram information about your company into such a small limit of words, you can expand on your company’s brand and inform your visitors—and Google—just what exactly your company is all about.
So, should I change ALL my website’s meta description tags?!
To be honest? No. In fact, Danny Sullivan from Google recommended via Twitter that you actually shouldn’t take that course of action. We kind of disagree with this, but we’ll get more into that in a bit.
The good news though is that you actually don’t have to take any action, period, because remember, Google will extract a search snippet from your website that’s actually relevant to what visitors search for, taking advantage of the extended length available and adding detail.
However, for landing pages (including your home page) as well as any future blog posts, it’s best to write a description tag that’s longer than 160 characters.
What’s in it for me?
For content purposes, as well as online marketing, there’s a lot more you can do now with your meta descriptions thanks to this new rule. You can provide a more in-depth synopsis of your articles, for example, like what we’ve done. Sometimes that extra info may actually improve the amount of traffic to the website and increase the clickthrough rate. You can also add more synonyms (keywords that relate to your website) to the description, which can give your site’s overall SEO a much-needed boost. Google’s current algorithm will get the sense that you’re actually authentic—a very good thing.
Bear in mind that just because you can write longer meta descriptions now, that does not mean keyword stuffing is okay now too. That’s still considered to be a major black-hat SEO practice.
If your website is more of an ecommerce one, you now can add more details about what you’re selling than before. Make sure that extra space goes to describing the benefits of your product though, not the dimensions and overly technical details.
So what do I do now?
Firstly, take action by extending your meta descriptions—but only for your website’s landing pages, including the home page, that have the highest clickthrough rate and the most traffic, as well as your best-selling product pages and any future blog posts you want to publish online. It’s a great idea to get a professional to review your current SEO if you’re not too sure about your web pages’ performance. It will also help you prioritize which landing pages you need to optimize first and foremost.
And if you need SEO, period…or a website, period…then you seriously need help. If so, give us a call at V3 Media today. SEO is one of many professional services we offer, and as you can see we do our best to stay up to date with the latest developments such as this one. Let us help you make sure you’re giving people the right reason to visit your website!