UPDATE MAY 2018
Google has changed things again 😉 The meta description length is now back to what it was before the change described below. Current description length is about 160 characters. Of course this change is also processed in Textmetrics optimization algorithms. Moz also has an interesting read about it.
You may have noticed in search results: at times you will see a longer meta description listed below a link. As a writer or online store owner, it is good to know why that happens. In this article, you will get a short explanation of meta tags, the change in their maximum length, and what they can do for you.
What is a meta description tag?
The black section of descriptive text below the URL in search results. You get to suggest what should appear there in the so-called “meta description tag”. Generally, Google picks up your suggested description, but not every time! For example, when your meta text is too long, Google cuts it down to a certain length.
Until recently, the golden rule was: a maximum of 160 characters.
But that has changed. Google is now showing descriptions up to 320 characters.
What makes a meta description so important?
We’ll go deeper into that change in maximum length, but first this: why are meta descriptions so important?
It helps searchers choose between multiple search results. That makes it important to clearly indicate in your meta text what your page is about, but do not forget to add a certain element of mystery or curiosity. That can boost your number of click-throughs.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
According to Google, building a keyword into your meta text does not factor into your search result ranking. Most experts would still recommend doing so, but maximum one time.
Which limit should I hold myself for my meta tags?
Should you be changing all your existing meta descriptions to a 320 character length? Probably not. Especially for any pages that are already performing well, it would be a shame to change those. 160 characters will often do the trick. There is also no guarantee that Google will show the longer descriptions every time.
For any pages with lower click-through-rates, it could not hurt to play around with the meta text. Certain categories are more suited to that approach than others:
Recipes are a great example of when a bit of additional information would encourage a Google user to click through.
Should I constantly stay on top of changes like this one?
Google’s algorithms are changing all the time. That can have a significant impact on your ranking in search results and the number of visitors clicking through to your website. If you keep a close eye on marketing blogs, you will pick up on these changes as you go.
With Textmetrics, there is no need to worry about any of it. We build every important SEO-update directly into our editing tool. That way you will get live tips as you write to make your content as attractive as possible for Google and your site visitors!