The meta descriptions on your site serve several purposes, and offer great opportunities. And now, thanks to Google, you have more space to work with! This fall, Google started displaying longer meta descriptions, extended out to over 300 characters (which translates to approximately three lines of text, as opposed to the two that used to show).This is a big deal because you now have more room to describe each page, and include your key words and locations. And if you’re lucky, your previous metas won’t get cut off due to their length!
What are meta descriptions?
Meta descriptions are the text that tells search engines what’s on your page, and also show up in search results. They should be specific to each page, and should include your keywords in context where possible. While keywords in metas are not used by search engines for SEO, they catch the eye of viewers, so you should include them.
Why should I care that meta descriptions have been extended?
Because meta descriptions are a great tool for websites! They not only tell (or should tell) search engines what your page is about, but they also display to visitors your key words and locations. And since you now have three lines of text to catch a viewer’s eye, you have more space to show the search engines and clients why you are the best site for their needs! You may want to browse this explanation to learn more.
How can I use these extended metas to gain more traffic?
By creating better text to describe each page, and inserting your keywords (in context), you have a greater chance of rising in search results because more visitors will click through to your site. Search engines don’t generally use the keywords in your meta descriptions, but they DO use the “click-through” rate, which is the number of visitors who click on a search result to get to your page. If this number goes up based on your meta description, that will help you rise in search results.
Do I create meta descriptions? I thought Google did.
Happily enough, YOU create these. Every builder I’ve used (WordPress, 1and1, GoDaddy, Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, and good ‘ole HTML) all have places where you create and edit these descriptions. BUT and NOTE that if you do not create meta descriptions for a page, or if Google does not like your meta, it may present another description instead (like maybe the first few lines of text on the page). To avoid this, and to make sure you keep control of your site, it is recommended you create proper meta descriptions yourself.
Do meta descriptions apply to just one page or my entire site?
Meta descriptions apply to one page only. This is good because you can be more specific that way. So for example, you can mention your love of dogs and walking on your /services/dog-walking page, but your love of cats and cat sitting on your /services/cat-sitting page. This also allows you to sprinkle your keywords and location around your many metas.
What if I leave my metas alone, or if they’re shorter than the recommended amount?
If your meta descriptions are showing now, they’re probably fine. Google’s extended descriptions just offer you a chance to extend your descriptions a bit. BUT if your descriptions are too short, be aware that Google may choose to create their own description for you. The best way to avoid that is to do it yourself. Want to see what your metas say now? Type this into your Chrome search bar: site:[yoursitename.com] and click enter. That should give you a page as seen in the image above.
I use Yoast. Do they know about the new extended limit?
YES HOT DARNIT, YES! Today, December 20, ’17, Yoast issued an update extends their recommend length for meta descriptions. I asked them about this on December 18, after Moz acknowledged the extended length and issued their own recommendation of 300 characters. After a bit of prodding (by me!), they issued the update today.
Meta descriptions are an essential part of your website, and Google has now extended the amount of text they’ll show in meta descriptions to around 300 characters. This will help website owners by giving them more space to explain what their pages are about. Use of keywords in context and locations are always recommended as well. Yoast has updated their SEO plugin to reflect this new limit; they now recommend up to 320 characters in each meta description.
New meta description limit: 300ish characters, which translates to 3+ lines in Google search results. Have fun!