Back in May 2016, Google made some changes to the search results where they started showing longer title tags and longer meta description tags. This, overall, was a significant change from the search results where they were generally only showing up to about 60-70 characters of a web page’s title tag and about 160 characters in a meta description tag.
Examples of Longer Meta Description Tags
Take a look at the search results for a search query for my name, Bill Hartzer, and you’ll see examples of longer meta description tags. The first result shown above, my home page, has 3 lines. That’s 230 characters (with spaces). The third and fourth search results, Search Engine Journal and State of Search have 324 characters with spaces and 319 characters with spaces. These certainly are longer meta description tags, and Google’s giving us the opportunity to enter more words that will show up.
Keep in mind that if you write a meta description tag that’s shorter, Google will most likely still show that meta description tag. But what about a longer meta description tag? Should you write more?
Should You Edit Your Current Meta Description Tags?
You probably already have a website. And, hopefully you’ve already optimized your title and meta description tags. You’ve written them for the users, the potential website visitors. That’s the SEO best practice, to write a good title and meta description tag that will lure them. You want to encourage them to click on your listing in the search results to visit your web page.
Keeping that in mind: you want them to click on your search result, that’s how you should write your meta description tags.
Even though we now have all these extra characters in the search result listing, that doesn’t mean that you need to use those extra characters.
The stance I’m taking now and what I recommend is this:
- Don’t spend a huge amount of extra time going rewriting all of your meta description tags on your website.
- Take the time to update the meta description tag to a longer meta description if it’s needed.
- If the page is not performing or ranking well, ask yourself why–it may not be because of the meta description tag.
- If you are optimizing a page and spending the time to make other changes on the page, consider rewriting the meta description tag to a longer meta description tag if it needs to be rewritten.
New web pages should take into account the longer meta description tags. But, again, don’t spend the time to go back to every web page on your website to rewrite those meta description tags. It’s probably not going to be worth the effort if you ONLY rewrite the meta description tag. While you’re at it, though, consider adding more content on the page, use headings, bulleted lists, tables, and other generally accepted HTML tags.
Lately, I have been recommending extending the length of the content on a page. I used to recommend at least 350 words per page of content, but I’m seeing great rankings and more traffic from organic search when pages have at least 1,500 words or more. Some pages, in fact, I’ve seen rank that have 15,000 to 30,000 words on the page.
If you’re upgrading the content, definitely upgrade the meta description tag to a longer meta description tag if it reads right. If you can, though, get your point across in less than 300 characters, then great–use that.
Less can actually be more.
There have been some times (actually quite often) in the page when I have had to cut the number of words in a meta description tag. In order to get the meta description tag to under 160 characters (the old standard/best practice), I typically took out words that made the meta description tag “read” less natural. This is a welcome change, and now we can write longer meta description tags. But remember, just because you have more room now doesn’t mean you need to use it.
TL;DR Longer Meta Description Tags
Don’t go back and rewrite all of your meta description tags. If you’re editing the page for other reasons, consider revising the meta description tag. New pages should get natural sounding meta description tags, up to 300 characters in length. Write well, don’t stuff keywords. Quite often, less is more.