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What are meta descriptions and are they longer now?

Tuesday, January 9th, 2018

Yes, they are longer. Let’s lay the groundwork first, though.

Right from the onset, even before you’re fully aware of what they are exactly, meta descriptions can be filed into a “you’ve seen it before” folder. Basically, if you’ve ever completed a Google search (we think a few of you have) you would have it in said folder. A meta description refers to the snippet of text that adds extra context to search results. Here’s an example:

meta descriptions

Due to it’s friendship with search results, meta descriptions are part of the larger world of SEO.  This means that they don’t solely exist for the searcher’s benefit. Actually, these snippets are on the front lines of your business. With this first impression, use a meta description to add information past the SEO title (the text above meta descriptions). At the same time, ensure you stick to a central topic or keyword.

This balance may be easier to achieve thanks to a recent update from Google. In December, they elongated the acceptable amount of characters for such snippets. Whereas marketers previously had 160 characters to work with, meta descriptions can run as long as 320 characters now. In addition, this change does not mean you have to go back and update previous meta descriptions according to Search Engine Land.

To quote their article, “Google told Search Engine Land that even though the snippets can be longer, the ‘fundamentals of writing a description tag’ have not changed.” Yoast SEO, a leading plugin to manage SEO on WordPress sites, echoed this sentiment.  Side note, we use this plugin for all our client’s awesome websites.

So, what exactly are the implications of this updated stance on meta descriptions? Both Yoast SEO and Search Engine Land point out that Google will, at times, pull a custom snippet from your site to show in search results. A longer meta description area, then, tells marketers that longer sections of your page are ripe for picking by Google.

While cohesion and writing flow will always be paramount, think about this when you write your next article or add content to your next webpage.


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