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The Birth of Longer Snippets

During mid to end of November 2017, Google officially updated their guidelines and the display limit for text displayed in the snippet—the short text preview of the search result.

For years Google limited the length of snippet texts to 160 characters or two rows.

What does this mean? It means that that you are no longer limited by the 160- character display length limit on Google search engine results page. Snippets can now be anywhere from 160 characters to 230 characters depending on the query.  A longer snippet will be dynamically generated if that is the best way to satisfy a user’s query.

The goal of the snippet is to provide enough information and describe each result to explain how it relates to a user’s query. The more information you give, the better your search result snippet will be!

What Has Changed?

  1. The snippet length: gone are the days where 160 characters were your limit.
  2. Guidelines around the snippet length: Google’s historic guidelines for snippet length was around 160 and 180 characters. It is now updated to upwards to 320 characters.

Why did Google do this? According to Google, they did so to provide more descriptive and useful snippets to help people understand how pages are relevant to their searches.

How Will this Change Affect SEO?

The snippet text and the page title are one of the most important bits of information to persuade searchers to click on your result.  With the new change, snippet texts will now need to be reconsidered and reworked.

  1. Click Through Rate
  • There may be fewer clicks on fewer complex queries
  • It can also lead to higher click-through rates on more complex queries because of people like the longer description.
  1. Might lead to lower click-through rate further down the search results
  • People might not scroll down as far if longer meta descriptions are taking up more real-estate on the search pages.
  • The search queries that are higher up will draw more of the clicks, leaving the results further down the page with less value than it used to have. Being on page one may become less valuable due to this.
  1. You will need to change the way you write and optimize the meta description
  • More space means that you’re going to be writing differently. You might be sacrificing clicks by helping the person searching get answers they need in your search result if enough information is provided.

What Should You do?

Although Google recommends not to change anything because snippets are dynamically generated when the situation calls for it, there are few things you should still be doing. Let’s take a look at what you should be doing to make sure that this change doesn’t affect the SEO your client’s website!

  1. Write a list of your most important landing pages by search traffic and then re-optimize the meta descriptions of those pages.
  2. Update any internal processes or CMS for description changes to increase the limit from 160 characters to 230-320 characters

What do you think of the new changes to Google’s snippet length? Let us know in the comments below.