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Google Extends Meta Description Length

Google Extends Meta Description Length

As of early December, Google expanded the length allowed in the meta description tag to 320 Characters from 160 Characters. According to Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Land, the change in the Meta Descriptions is done to provide descriptive snippets.

WHAT IS THE META DESCRIPTION TAG?

So what is a meta description tag? It’s a tag that appears in the section of an HTML web page. Simply put, this tag gives both Google and visitors a little more information about the contents of your page. Sometimes, Google will show the meta description in the SERPs, It’s the search snippet that appears as a paragraph of text just below the link.

meta_description_SERP

It should be noted, though, that Google doesn’t always show the meta description contents in the search snippet. This is because sometimes Google wants to display page contents that are more relevant to the user’s query. Although Google doesn’t use the contents of the tag in its ranking algorithm, it still can affect your click-through rate (CTR). In other words, if people see a search snippet that inspires them to click the link, you could see a ranking boost with the higher CTR.

THE NEW LENGTH

Up until recently, the maximum allowable characters in the meta description tag stood at 160. Now, it’s up to 320.
Here’s the statement that Google released just a couple of weeks ago: “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.”

To change or not to change?

So should you go through all of your web pages and update the meta description text? No. Google’s Danny Sullivan recommends that you don’t take that course of action. As we’ve seen, what Google displays to its users might not be derived from the contents of the meta description tag.
In other words, if you’re producing quality content throughout your page, Google will extract a snippet up to 320 characters that’s relevant to the user’s search.

Competition will Rise

Now people are able to insert twice as much content into their meta description than before, the competition for Page 1 will now be even more fierce. If people are reading longer snippets on Page 1 of Google’s search results, then it’s likely that fewer of them will even bother to visit Page 2. If Page 2 is filled with 300+ character search snippets, then some of those people will drop off before getting to Page 3. And so on. That means reaching Page 1 in the SERPs will probably become an even higher priority for SEOs than it was in the past. That’s a significant change.

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