Just recently, Google expanded the length allowed in the meta description tag. That's good news for SEOs.
Why? Because they can use the additional text to promote their brands.
Even better, though: digital marketers who leave their meta description tags alone will still see an improved presence in the search engine results pages (SERPs). That's because Google increased the search snippet size as well.
In this article, we'll go over the the meta description tag and explain how you should update your SEO strategy going forward.
What Is the Meta Description Tag?
So what is a meta description tag?
It's a tag that appears in the <head> section of an HTML web page. It usually looks like this:
<meta name="description" content="This is a description of my web page."/>
In a nutshell, that tag gives both Google and visitors a little more information about the contents of your page.
Although Google doesn't use the meta description tag for ranking purposes, it still parses it.
Sometimes, Google will show the meta description in the SERPs. It's the search snippet that appears as a paragraph of text just below the link.
It should be noted, though, that Google doesn't always show the meta description contents in the search snippet.
Why? Because sometimes Google wants to display page contents that are more relevant to the user's query.
For example, let's say a user searches for "best boyfriend blue jeans." In response, Google shows the user a web page that ranks the various types of blue jeans.
In that case, the contents of the meta description tag might be: "Here we rank all the popular types of blue jeans."
As you can see, the keyword "best boyfriend blue jeans" is nowhere to be found in the description. Google instead shows a snippet from the article itself that reads: "Here are the best boyfriend blue jeans for 2018..."
That way, the user sees that the search result is relevant to the keyword.
The New Length
Up until recently, the maximum allowable characters in the meta description tag stood at 160. Now, it's up to 320.
Here's the statement that Google released just a couple of weeks ago: "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."
So should you go through all of your web pages and update the meta description text? No.
In fact, Google's Danny Sullivan recommends that you don't take that course of action. I disagree a bit, but we will come back to that.
The good news, though, is that you don't have to take any action.
Why? Remember: Google will extract a search snippet from your site that's relevant to the user's query. It will take advantage of the expanded length available to provide even more detail to the user.
In other words, you win without doing anything.
However, for future blog posts and landing pages, you probably should write a meta description that's longer than 160 characters.
More Characters, More Fun!
The following statements are both true:
You can now put 320 characters in the meta description tag
Sometimes Google will show users the contents of the meta description tag in the search snippet
On the back of that news, how should you change the contents of the meta description tag?
For content and digital marketing purposes, there's a lot that you can do with the new allowable space.
For starters, you can provide a more in-depth synopsis of your article. That extra info might just be enough to get more clicks.
Also, you can populate the meta description with search terms related to your primary keyword. That will give the Google algorithm the sense that you're authentic.
However, you should not view the new length as an opportunity for keyword stuffing. That will get you nowhere fast.
Also, now that you have twice the space, you might have more opportunities for clickbait text than you had in the past. That should get you more clicks as well.
When it comes to ecommerce, though, you should take a different approach to the expanded length.
Start by providing more details about the product that you're selling. However, make sure you also take advantage of the additional space to promote the benefits of the product.
Google has blessed you with an additional 160 characters for marketing purposes. Don't squander it by just spitting out dimensions and technical details.
Wrapping It Up
You now have twice the characters you had before to promote your brand in the SERPs. While you don't need to go back and change all of your old web pages, you should take advantage of the new length on future blog posts and product detail pages. Make sure you use that additional space to give people a reason to click on your link.