A Google spokesperson has confirmed that Google has officially increased the character length limit for search results snippets to a maximum of 320 characters . Prior to this update, Rank Ranger’s study found that search snippets ranged from 160 characters to 230 characters, depending on the search query.
The change comes after Google recognized the value of higher quality snippets on search behavior and how these affect user click patterns. The change aims to give searchers useful and descriptive snippets as a guide in determining which sites are most relevant to their searches.
What exactly are Snippets?
When you search on Google, the search result consists of a Page title (in dark blue) followed by a few text lines, which is called a snippet. It is located under the URL and the clickable title. In generating a search results snippet, Google will likely use the meta description of a page if it thinks that it provides a better description than the available on-page content.
Together with the Page Title, the snippet reveals to searchers what a web page is all about and identifies the keywords used in the query by highlighting it in bold. Snippets also provide a concise summary of content featured on a page.
To illustrate Google’s new policy of increasing the character limit for meta description snippets, below is a search on the keyword “Best Restaurants in Singapore”
The search showed the following results:
The first two results featured snippets which noticeably consisted of only one line and did not exceed the limit of 150 characters.
Interestingly, the search result also reflected the new snippet update:
The snippet contains at least 4 lines of information, with at least 320 characters.
So what does having a longer snippet mean for online businesses anyway? Analysts say that Google’s longer snippets may impact the SEO strategies used online brands.
Meta Descriptions: Should they be updated?
There are opposing views on whether or not meta descriptions should be updated.Danny Sullivan, Google’s public liaison for search, said in a tweet that expanding meta descriptions tags isn’t necessary. This is because Google’s generation of longer snippets is a dynamic process not wholly dictated by the meta description manually assigned to a page.However, in a recent Google webmaster hangout, John Mueller suggested updating meta description tags . While the description has no effect on rankings, it can significantly impact click through rates. It affects search snippets and the way searchers view sites in the search results.
Impact on Click Through Rates
Mueller likewise encouraged brands to use the new character limit to their advantage. Meta descriptions displayed in search snippets should contain particular information sought by users and attract them to click through. With more space to use, SEOs should craft descriptions that are sufficient and detailed, able to give users what they want at first glance.Rand Fishkin from Moz.com, however, explained that a highly detailed snippet can lower CTRs (click through rates) especially for less complex queries. Since the snippet already contains all the information a user is looking for, chances are, there is no more need to click on the source site. For complex queries however, it is possible to get more CTRs. Complex queries require breadth of information. Thus, users will still have to obtain bulk of the valuable information by clicking through the site, after having read the page summary on the snippet.
Take advantage of Google’s update on search snippets. Let us help you optimise your site pages, including your meta descriptions. To increase your site traffic and boost your SERPs, contact us today!