Sometimes, less is more. It’s a great saying that I use often—depending on the situation. Like when you’re trying to teach a group of third graders how to run a basketball play—less is more. You don’t have to bog them down with too many details, just give them the basics and let them go. For years we’ve been given the same advice about meta descriptions, but not any anymore.
After being limited to 165 characters for as long as I can remember, the 2018 meta description length is growing. Google is finally saying “Release the Kraken!” In November Google started showing longer meta descriptions and now more than half are showing up to 320 characters. That's why the content team at Kuno Creative is now writing longer meta descriptions, and you should, too.
So let’s take a minute to break down what a good meta description looks like, how long it should actually be, and how it may affect your SEO.
If you’re not creating content on a daily basis, or work on our demand generation team, you may only be vaguely familiar with what a meta description actually is. Or, maybe you are creating content and, up until now, haven’t realized how much of a difference a good meta description can make.
The meta description is a snippet of up to (now) 320 characters that summarizes a page's content. It’s that little bit of information below the link of a search result. The one you’re about to see is 311 characters.
As the meta description (above)points out, search engines show the meta description in search results, mostly when the searched for phrase is contained in the description. In other words, optimizing the meta description is an important aspect of on-page SEO because a meta description helps persuade readers to choose your site. It’s meant to give search engines and readers information about your blog post's content. Think of it as an elevator pitch.
Google used to force you to make your pitch in 165 characters or less, but has now added a few lines. Technically, there is no official recommended meta description length, but that doesn’t mean your meta description length should rival War and Peace. We’re recommending a sweet spot of about 250-300 characters long.
There are three predominant ways the longer meta description length will affect your SEO. They are:
If you’re a content creator or copy editor you’ve probably gotten used to writing shorter, to-the-point meta descriptions. Now, you have more room to write and you’ll be encouraged to use it. That’s because you’ll want to entice people to click, but if you can answer someone’s question in the search result itself (the meta description), there’s a chance Google will rank you higher. So, you may sacrifice some clicks by helping the searcher get the answer they need in the search result.
2. Your click-through rate may be affected.
There’s a chance there will be fewer clicks on queries that are less complex, but you may see an increased number of click-throughs on topics that are a little more difficult to understand. It will be important to entice people with the longer meta description, now more than ever.
3. Longer meta descriptions take up more space on page.
This could also lead to a lower click-through rate because the longer meta descriptions will mean less search results showing on the screen. If your meta description is closer to the bottom of the page, it may never be seen. People may not scroll down as far, but it’s still too early to tell.
One of the first things you should do is to check your top search engine results pages. Begin optimizing your meta descriptions by doing things like:
Another thing you can do is to check your content marketing software. Make sure it is updated and will allow up to 320 characters for your longer meta descriptions. Make sure you’re set up to win, so you can take what Google is giving to you.
Our demand generation department is now working with our content team to build longer meta descriptions for our existing clients. We’re focusing on main pages (one or two clicks in) and most popular blog articles (based on visits/sessions) to start.
If you’re looking for more information on how to improve your SEO, download our free “SEO Checklist for 2018.”