The 160 - 180 character limit for meta descriptions has been standard practice for years, but now Google has decided to increase the snippets to provide more information in search results.
After many in the SEO industry noticed longer meta description snippets in Google's search results recently, the search engine giant officially confirmed that they have made a change to how they display snippets on their search results page.
A spokesperson for Google told Search Engine Land:
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.
Over the past week or so, many in the industry have noticed that the meta description snippets were longer in the search results than they were before.
Tracking tools such as Rank Ranger have also spotted that meta descriptions displayed in Google are now more like 230 characters. Here's their chart covering the past month:
Should webmasters increase the length of their meta description tags?
Whenever Google makes a fundamental change like this, the immediate reaction is for webmasters to rush and make changes to their websites in order to benefit.
However, it is likely that adding more content to your meta descriptions will not provide much, if any, of a benefit.
More often than not, Google is generating the longer snippets dynamically using content from the page and shaping it to better fit what they think the searcher is looking for. Therefore, the best tactic to make sure your pages benefit is to ensure your content covers the topic as thoroughly as possible so Google as the option to display the most relevant snippet possible.
About the Author
Luke Glassford is an SEO expert with over 15 years’ experience.
During his time working in SEO, Luke has set-up an SEO agency, worked as an in-house SEO for a major national company and managed his own successful SEO consultancy - using a lot of different SEO tools along the way!