In December, Google confirmed the extension of search results snippets from 160 characters long to a maximum of 320 characters long. With this announcement, there were a lot of speculations around, how to work around the meta descriptions now. To this, Google presented its stand that even though the snippet in the search results can be longer, but the “fundamentals of writing a description tag” would not change.
Whenever a user asks for a query, it is not necessary that Google shows up all the 320 characters, also it may or may not show the meta description but show the content of your page instead. A lot of decisions taken by Google regarding what all to show in the search results snippet is primarily based on the searchers’ query and also the content of your page. According to a Google spokesperson, “there’s no need for publishers to suddenly expand their meta description tags, if they feel their current ones are adequate. … We now display slightly longer snippets, which means we might display more of a meta description tag.”
So, the only thing you need to worry about is whether you are happy with your current meta descriptions or not. Meta descriptions play a little or no role in your Google search rankings. But, they do play a role in what your searchers would see in the Google search results and therefore can have an impact on the click-through rate.
Below is the Google’s official statement on the snippets change:
“The fact that our snippets have gotten longer doesn’t change the fundamentals of writing a description tag. They should generally inform and interest users with a short, relevant summary of what a particular page is about. We now display slightly longer snippets, which means we might display more of a meta description tag. However, we never had a limit on meta description tag length before, as we covered earlier this year. So, there’s no need for publishers to suddenly expand their meta description tags, if they feel their current ones are adequate. As a reminder, our snippets are dynamically generated. Sometimes, they use what’s in a meta description tag. More often, they are generated by showing content from the page itself and perhaps parts of the meta description tag, as is appropriate for individual queries.”
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For more information, you can check out the “Create good titles & snippets” section of Google’s official SEO starter guide.
So, with longer snippets, there doesn’t have to be any major overhaul in your SEO strategy. The only thing you need to understand is that how the snippets in Google search results are actually created. According to John Mueller from Google, for snippets they try to focus on the meta descriptions that a website provides but if they need more information or context as per the user’s query, they can take some parts directly from the page as well.
Therefore, changing your descriptions or making them longer might not help you improve your site’s ranking. However, it can affect how users would view your site in the search results which can directly affect your click-through rate. From that, standpoint alone you might want to elongate your meta description in order to more thorough with the user and convince them to visit your website.
Having said all this, the one thing which you should keep in mind is checking in the search console and using the search analytics to see what are top queries that are leading the users to your pages. You can then adjust your description keeping in mind what the search result looks like when you enter those queries. So, always consider the analytics and then work towards improving your click-through rates on your popular pages.