It was 5 months ago when Google announced that they were changing the length of a meta description that they will display on a search results page. Have you increased the length of your meta descriptions?
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In December of last year Google announced that they are increasing the length of the description from 160 characters to 320 characters. The proverbial ink hadn’t even dried when the SEO community started the speculation machine trying to figure out what this will mean.
Just to clarify, the meta description tag is where Google is supposed to get the information that populates the definition area of a website’s page listing on their search results page.
Should you include key-phrases in your meta description? Should you re-write all of your descriptions to fill out all 320 characters? What does this mean?
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Well, here we are 5 months later and here’s what we know.
- Meta descriptions are getting longer. As of today’s writing the average length of meta descriptions is 231 characters Rank Ranger
- The meta description tag has no SEO value
- Google may or may not use the content that you type into your meta description tag
- Google many times will use the first paragraph from your website page as the description
- The meta description tag still has a value in letting searchers know what information is on the website page
How To Use Meta Description
Moving forward, here’s how we are advising clients to use this tag
First, use them. Use the space that Google is giving to give as much description of what your website pages are all about as you can. Don’t do this, however, thinking that you’re going to get a better ranking because of the description. You won’t. What you will do, though, is give people that are searching a much better understanding of what is on your website’s pages.
This is important because you don’t want people landing on your page that aren’t interested in what your site is all about…because that will hurt your SEO ranking.
Let me explain. One of the signals that Google does use for your SEO ranking score is your site’s engagement. In other words, do the people that come to your site engage with it. Do they spend time on it? Do they visit a number of different pages when they’re on your site? If you’re driving people to your site because the description of your website’s page is misleading, these people will not engage which means that you will start negatively impacting your SEO score.
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It’s also important to know that Google doesn’t always use what you write in the meta description tag.
As an example, if what you’ve written has substantially less than the 360 characters that they’re allowing, often they will pull content from your website page to fill in the gap. Similarly, if you don’t put anything in this tag, then they will pull content from your website page, most likely from the first paragraph, to fill in the gap.
This is why it’s important to make sure that you write the first paragraph of all of your pages as a description of what that page is about. That way, regardless of what Google decides to put into the description area of their results page, you’ll get people to that page that are actually interested in the information that is on the page.
Back To The Original Question
Should/have you changed all of your meta descriptions.
If you have, congratulations. Take a second to pat yourself on the back and take a look at how they look on Google.
If you haven’t I’d suggest that you either have content in your meta description tag that clearly explains what your page is all about, or make sure that the first paragraph of your page is written as if it were to be used as the description of the page.
I would not suggest that you go through your entire site to change the meta description information. There is no data that supports that this would be a good use of resources.