Just when you get used to limiting your meta descriptions to 160 characters, Google starts extending them to 230 characters. So what does this mean for website owners?
If you are not familiar with search snippets, this relates to the bit of text underneath the page title in the search results which gives us a preview of what we will see on the page. The snippet can be adjusted on most websites by manually adjusting the meta description element from within the content management system (cms) if you have one.
The snippet is often used as way to encourage people to click on our web page instead of others in the search results and will include a call to action and so on to achieve this result.
According to a recent article in Search Engine Land Google have suggested that the change to the snippet has been implemented to help people better understand the relevance of what is on the page and presumably help them decide if what they see is worth clicking on.
So what are likely to be the implications of the search snippet change?
The change Google have made doesn’t seem to apply to all the pages we see in the search results but snippets will be longer on average than they were before. For now we should expect that this change may well be a permanent one and it sounds like us website owners might lose some direct control over the snippet as a result of this change.
Unfortunately, if you have a large website and you have worked hard to set all your meta descriptions up just how you want them, you might find that what is displayed in the search results doesn’t match your preferred description. Google is likely to decide what to display and take some of that control away.
One way to combat the change is to make sure any content that you have on the page is on-topic and tightly controlled to be relevant no matter what Google decides to pull out of the page as a description.
Pages should also contain a greater ratio of content that would make sense displayed in a search snippet. Owners of e-commerce and events type websites, for example, may need to increase the length and relevancy of product descriptions on pages to influence what is displayed in search snippets.