How To Work With The New Meta Description Limits

As you may have seen Google has increased meta description snippets to 320 characters. This is big news. We’re going to talk about best practices for the new character limits below.

But just in case you hadn’t heard, the news broke last week through Search Engine Land. Their direct quote was:

“Google has confirmed with Search Engine Land that it has made a change to the way it displays snippets in search results. A snippet is the description of a page shown below the URL in an organic search result that helps show how it relates to the search query.

A Google spokesperson told us:

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.”

At the time it wasn’t recommended (by Google employee, Danny Sullivan) that webmasters take the time to re-write their meta descriptions. In fact, John Mueller mentioned that the descriptions would expand based on a combination of what already existed plus page content.

Well, things have changed.

In the most recent Google Webmaster Hangout the question came up again. Should we re-write our meta descriptions to fit the longer character limit. John Mueller talks about this in the clip below:

As SEOs know, Title tags and meta descriptions are essentially our organic ad copy. They help optimize as well as drive clicks. These are not a ranking factor however. But they do impact how users see your site in the SERPs. So of course, if we’re treating these as click drivers – they should be well written.

Here’s how we suggest you move forward with your meta descriptions:

  1.  Use Search Console and Google Analytics to find the top queries that your pages show up for.
  2. Prioritize your most important pages
  3. See what your meta description looks like for those pages
  4. Compare these to your competitors for the same queries (do yours stack up to the competition?)
  5. Re-write your meta descriptions for pages that you feel are lacking compared to your competitors.
  6. Make full use of the 320 character limit by checking it with a tool like this one

Those are the best practices for the new meta descriptions as we see them for now.  We’ll update you if/when the situation changes.  Don’t forget, we have best practices for both on-site SEO and off-site SEO PDFs.  Just login to your dashboard click the Help tab, then click SEO Strategies.

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