The Ultimate Guide To Meta Information

The Ultimate Guide To Meta Information

Web pages are like ads for your website. And meta descriptions are like the ad copy that entices people to visit the site and make a purchase.

New Length for Google’s SERP Snippet and Meta Description

In Dec 2017, Google officially confirmed changes to how it displays text snippets in Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs).

SERP snippets are the additional text that appears under your search result title in Google. This text gives searchers a brief overview of the content that appears on the page and is usually pulled from the Meta description of the page.

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The change comes after Google recently announced it was testing longer snippets for select search results. Now, this update is live for all search results: Snippets can now be up to 320 characters (up from 160 characters).

Note: Despite the changes, the overall scheme when it comes to SERP snippets is still constant. Text will most likely be taken from either the first paragraph of your web page or part of the meta description. In some cases, the alt text attribute of images as well as text in the HTML code is captured for the snippet.

Dr. Pete Meyers’ Study

Dr. Pete Meyers has written a great study on how long a meta description should be. The report is based on data from 89,909 pages one organic results, so it’s well worth taking a look at.

Based on this study, SERP snippet length averaged 215 characters with a median of 186 characters. The average length appears to be skewed upward due to the presence of “big numbers” (websites with very long Meta Descriptions) in the sample group. On the other hand, some snippets were short because their Metas were short. 

Also, there is evidence to suggest that some search engines will truncate longer descriptions and display them as ellipses. A huge bulk of snippets are cut off in the 275 to the 350-character range.

Contrary to what most would believe, Dr. Meyers also noted no significant difference in mobile and desktop snippet lengths. In some instances, mobile snippets tend to be longer than desktop snippets. 

In this study by Moz, Dr. Pete Meyers concluded that there are no hard and fast rules for meta description length. Instead, the actual SERP snippet tends to vary by query type.

What is happening with the changes made?

Google aims to meet users’ search needs with its search results. In the early days, Google simply pulled its SERP snippet from the meta descriptions available on webpages. 

However, as Google’s algorithms have evolved, so too have its search results. Search results are now determined by whatever text the algorithm identifies that will usually make the most sense in terms of satisfying a user’s query.

What is a meta description anyway?

A meta description is a short snippet that describes the content of a web page (usually 160 characters or less). It helps visitors and search engines understand the purpose of a page, and it can also impact how the page ranks in search results.

In web development, the meta description is added as an HTML element usually located in the head section of a website. You can generate it automatically by your CMS (content management system) or write it by hand.

Search engines show the meta description in search results mostly when the searched-for phrase is within the description. So optimizing the meta description is crucial for on-page SEO.

Do meta descriptions affect SEO?

Web pages are like ads for your website. And meta descriptions are like the ad copy that entices people to visit the site and make a purchase.

But do they affect SEO?

The short version is this: while meta descriptions don’t directly impact SEO, they are extremely useful for driving clicks from search results. As such, they indirectly impact search engine ranking positions. 

A great way to increase SEO rankings is to simply get more visitors to your site. And one of the best ways to get more visitors is by having a great meta description. It will entice people to click through from search results and actually visit your site. More visitors = better rankings.

What does the updated snippet mean to marketers?

The SEO world is buzzing with chatter about what this update means for marketers. We’ll briefly discuss the changes, and then talk about what they mean for marketers trying to get their content found by consumers who are actively searching for it.

Well, the change is a huge boon for marketers. Why? Because Google’s old snippet formula was mostly based on the contents of the meta description. Hence, it left marketers with a lot to do in a small space. Keeping your meta descriptions clear, short, and relevant was tricky – and now it’s no longer necessary. 

With the new system, your page gets to make its case for appearing in the search results. Also, there’s no need for you to worry about including all of your keywords or condensing complicated ideas into one short sentence. Just ensure your descriptions are unique, relevant, and engaging to increase your chances of being displayed by Google.

Also, with this new opportunity, online marketers can take advantage of the organic results page to drive traffic. They’ll have the avenue for understanding their target audience, their behaviors, and what motivates them to click on certain content. 

Overall, Google is simply finding ways to provide users with a more defined search result relevant to user queries. And this is major news for marketers everywhere.

Note: The update on snippets is just the beginning. Google will probably make more changes in the future to improve search results in favor of users.

So what is the best strategy for boosting my SERP’s?

To improve your chances of a higher click through rate, you can do the following:

  • Rewrite all the meta descriptions of your website’s pages and make them longer.
  • Rewrite selected meta descriptions of pages you have identified to have low click-through rates.
  • Make a thorough audit of your website’s content to ensure that the first paragraph of each page is compelling enough to attract readers to your website. Also, ensure that the first paragraph of each page contains at least 300 – 350 characters including spaces. Don’t forget to front-load the first 150 characters in case Google decides to switch back to the shorter snippets.

So what makes a good meta description?

Keep it the right length

Make it 300-320 characters long ( including spaces). 

However, the first 160 characters should be a gripping teaser to get people to click – long meta descriptions are truncated in Google’s search results. Also, studies show that people have difficulty reading more than 120 characters at once.

Reflect keyword that describes the content

Include keywords that are relevant to the topic of the page you’re promoting; these will help search engine bots find and rank your site higher than competitors’.

Note: Don’t stuff your meta description with keywords. Instead, employ it in a natural, non-spammy way.

It should be unique and original

Be unique and original when writing your meta description. Remember, this is your first impression on potential customers—make it count!

Ensures it’s relevant to the page it describes

Make sure your meta description is written for the page you’re advertising. If the searcher clicks on a link to your landing page and it doesn’t match up with the description, they’ll bounce right off of it!

Include a call to action

Finally, include a call-to-action in your text so readers know what they’ll get if they click through: “Learn More” or “Download Now” are both good options.

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