Googles long descriptions: yes or no?

Thursday, 1st January 1970

Long meta descriptions are becoming more prevalent across search results. Should you update yours?

Search engine giant Google used to limit meta description lengths to around 160 characters – as a standard best practice this was, despite being limited, a good way to really hone in on what words and phrases were important to ensure a good ranking and click through rate. 

But Google loves to tinker…

Although longer descriptions actually came into being in 2016, they are now becoming more and more prevalent, and that poses some problems for those in the SEO game… for instance, do we have to go back through all our meta descriptions and bulk them up?

And how will – or does – this affect ranking?

What we think

Thus far, there isn’t any guidance or evidence from Google that having a longer description is vital for SEO and ranking.

It is clear that, where Google results are picking up longer descriptions, they are often appearing as uncontextualised bits of text containing bits of information that relate to the search term.

But the fact remains that the best way to bring up your result at the top of a search page is to have meta descriptions that include the user’s search term word-for-word – whether that then appears in a long description or two-liner is actually irrelevant. 

Some things to consider

When we’re writing meta descriptions we’re ultimately trying to entice a user to click on our result when it comes up, because it’s the closest to the answer they seek.

Will a user click on a bulkier description? Entirely possibly as long as the result gives them confidence that the site will answer their question or need.

But test the theory first, and play clever:

  • Do some research on which pages on your site are attracting the most traffic. Then do competitor analysis and see how their pages compare in terms of the search result descriptions. Use Google Search Console to really understand how people are finding your pages.
  • Select a sample of pages that crop up from this research and make full use of the extended description limit (around 300 characters)
  • Then track activity around those pages for a period of time that’s long enough to gather enough data. How do these pages perform in comparison with pre-change performance?

This should give you an indication of where, or indeed whether the longer descriptions are necessary, more efficient and deliver more to your site’s goals.

To find out more about analysing your website’s SEO, keywords and descriptions, and how to improve your online efficiency contact Realnet on +44 1223 55 08 00.