Google Increased Its Snippet Length - What Does That Mean For SEO?

Last month chatter in the SEO world became loud about Google possibly having changed the length of snippets it displays in its search engine result pages (SERPs). Early December, Google officially came out with the news to Search Engine Land and confirmed that the search results snippets were extended from 160 characters to a new maximum of 320 characters. Now, we all wonder: How does that affect our SEO strategy?

The SEO role of meta descriptions.

The role your meta description plays in search is simple but powerful: It’s a brief paragraph that summarises the content of a page well enough to encourage a user to click. It’s the short copy placed in the HTML of your webpage that outlines its content which will then appear right below your page’s URL in the search results, a.k.a. “snippet”.

Google generates its snippets based on your page’s meta description, and while the SERP may or may not show your meta description, a big part of that decision is based on the content on your page and how well that matches a searcher’s query. While meta descriptions don’t directly influence search engine rankings, they are extremely valuable for a good user experience, to provide clues about page content for indexing, and to help increase your results’ click-through rate from SERPs. That said, in return, your page ranking will benefit from a high click-through rate, which ultimately makes meta descriptions an important indirect SEO influence.

Fundamentals of a good meta description.

Theoretically, they could always be any length, but search engines would abbreviate meta descriptions longer than 160 characters. With the update that visibility limit has now been doubled to 320 characters allowing us to craft more descriptive snippets. But should we?

This short paragraph is your chance to advertise your website’s content to Google users and show them why your page can provide exactly what they were looking for. Saying more about what’s on your page can be tempting, but I recommend caution. In a mobile-first world, marketers need to be aware of smaller screen sizes and less reading patience of their on-the-go mobile audience.

Think of a Google snippet like your page’s ‘elevator pitch’ that cuts straight to its core assets. Know what a visitor who lands on your page wants and channel your messaging into a clear and compelling meta description. If your current 160 character descriptions are doing a great job at that, there’s no need to add any fluff. If it’s time for you to review your meta descriptions anyway, the new limit might allow you some extra copywriting freedom but don’t sacrifice a well-crafted, bite-sized pitch for more descriptiveness.

About the Author

Lisa Kupfer

Lisa is a Content Marketer at Soshal with a knack for SEO and a love for all things brand-related. Acceptable vices include foosball, coffee, and a very regular dose of soft serve.