The Rules Have Changed: Google Expanding Meta Descriptions

January 24, 2018 Stephanie Ewen


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Early last month, Google confirmed they are extending the length of meta descriptions. Originally limited to 160 characters, the new maximum length is 320 characters. This is big news!

Here is an example of two websites in a Google search results page. The first has the longer description, roughly 247 characters. The second has a shorter description, roughly 152 characters.

screenshot of Google SERP


Your page title and description are the first impression a searcher has about you. Now, you get to tell them more.

What Does this Mean for Your Website?

This should change the way you write and optimize the description for your website pages. Now that you have more space, try to entice people to click.

You also want to think about the search result itself. Can you answer the searcher’s query in your page description?

If so, there is a chance Google will rank your page higher. Even though Google does not use the description as a ranking factor, they do analyze that text for relevancy.

Strike a Balance

There is a balance between providing enough information to rank well and driving clicks from search results.

Think of your page description as a movie trailer. Most trailers are less than two and a half minutes long.

They aim to spark interest and get people excited. Those few minutes have to be powerful and leave people wanting more.

There is no magic formula for this. Just try to be conscious of it as you write.

What You Should do Now

Take a look at your website data. Look for pages with the most organic search traffic. Make a list of the top performing pages. Re-optimize them with a longer page description.

Here are five tips for creating good meta descriptions.

  1. While it can be up to 320 characters, Google may add or remove text from your search result. Google looks for the most relevant information to present to searchers. I recommend leaving a buffer for Google and limit your characters to roughly 260.
  2. Make it actionable. The description should be an invitation to the page. It should include a call to action and contain structured content.
  3. Match the content on the page. This is important. Google will find text that tricks visitors into clicking. It penalizes websites for a misleading description.
  4. Add keywords. Google typically bolds the keyword which makes the link more relevant.
  5. Make it unique. If your description is a duplicate from one page to the next, the user experience in Google will be less. This will affect your ranking.

You may be able to add more characters to your description. But, the fundamentals of writing them are still the same.

If you have questions about how to create your meta descriptions, leave a comment below.


About the Author

Stephanie Ewen

Stephanie Ewen helps ITC customers with the search engine optimization of their websites. She has been working in marketing for more than 10 years. Her specialties include web design and search engine optimization (SEO). To stay on top of the latest SEO trends and algorithm updates, Stephanie reads blog articles and participating in courses produced by some foremost experts in SEO. She is certified in inbound marketing, Google Analytics and fusion marketing. Stephanie is an avid softball fan and enjoys volunteering and spending time with her husband, kids and grandkids.

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