Again in 2016, my colleague Christopher Ratcliff wrote a wonderful how-to information about meta descriptions right here at Search Engine Watch.
A lot of what’s included in that article continues to be helpful. The nice and unhealthy examples Chris analyses are nonetheless on level and you’d do rather a lot worse than to put in writing your personal descriptions in keeping with his takeaway guidelines even two years down the road.
However as is case on the planet of search, issues are at all times altering. search engine marketing copywriters and entrepreneurs should be adapting to an ever-evolving SERP panorama throughout a number of screens and considering Google’s oft-tweaked algorithm.
Google is more and more unpredictable with the way it shows meta descriptions. At the moment, the size at which it truncates descriptions can fluctuate considerably from outcome to outcome. Generally the service will auto-generate descriptions or amend them. We’re even seeing SERPs with far much less descriptions in use in any respect with the rise of different wealthy options similar to reply bins and carousels.
Let’s check out some examples and think about meta description greatest apply for 2018.
First issues first – what are meta descriptions?
Meta descriptions are a brief piece of written content material marked up within the HTML of a webpage.
Good examples sometimes elaborate on the data given within the title tag and intention to entice the searcher to click on by. They may give a flavour of the content material on that exact web page by describing it…
…or offering an excerpt…
They often give a broader description of the positioning.
And if the result’s a branded one, the meta description may describe the model extra typically.
We regularly affiliate meta descriptions with the gray textual content displayed underneath the URL within the search outcomes. In addition they seem when pages are shared on social channels like Twitter and Fb.
Descriptions will also be tweaked particularly for Fb optimization utilizing Open Graph markup and for Twitter utilizing Twitter Playing cards.
Meta description lengths – they’re altering
Till very lately, it was commonplace apply for Google to set a reasonably predictable restrict for a way lengthy meta descriptions may very well be. As Chris highlights in his final piece, we may count on descriptions sometimes being truncated at round 135-160 characters. However that is now not the case.
The above instance SERPs (for the phrase ‘greatest child led weaning meals’) embrace a meta description for Netmums being truncated at round 330 characters, in addition to shorter descriptions extra in step with the traditional 135-160 character size.
We are able to additionally infer from this that Google’s algorithm is judging the usefulness of the meta description – selecting to incorporate extra if it’s more likely to reply the question of the searcher rapidly.
We are able to additionally see the Mom & Child outcome clearly wanting prefer it has been written with conventional character limits in thoughts. It’s nonetheless, I’d argue, probably the most persuasive description of the bunch by way of making me wish to click on. However, we will clearly see from this outcomes web page that experimenting with longer meta descriptions is now an possibility for entrepreneurs.
Variations between cell and desktop?
Relating to desirous about our search ends in the cell context, is Google extra harsh with how lengthy meta descriptions could be on smaller screens? Absolutely the search engine needs to dedicate more room to hyperlinks and titles, than descriptions?
Let’s examine the above outcomes with how they honest on cell SERPs.
The brief reply: there may be – for this question at the least – little or no distinction between how Google is presenting the descriptions throughout screens.
We have to settle for a variety of caveats. This is only one question, in a single area of interest, throughout simply a few units, however it’s fairly illuminating. Each of the longest meta descriptions from the desktop SERPs are saved on the identical size on cell.
However that’s to not say Google isn’t making some amendments for SERPs on handheld units.
The well-crafted Mom & Child result’s being tightened up by a couple of characters, chopping out “finger pleasant. Say no extra, we’ve obtained all of the solutions, together with”. If we dive into the supply textual content, we will get a greater image of what’s occurring.
On this case, Google is being fairly good about truncating the marked-up meta description so as to favor textual content from the web page that features some key phrases. It’s doing this throughout desktop and – to a barely extra extreme extent – on cell.
However the rule will not be so simple as assuming cell descriptions should be shorter. As the sooner examples show, if the outline consists of related key phrases or is doing a great job at answering the question, Google is joyful to incorporate longer snippets – even on cell.
Meta descriptions within the period of wealthy options
Google is clearly at all times bettering at understanding our intent as searchers.
Its algorithm makes a jugdgement on this earlier than deciding how a lot or how little an outline snippet to incorporate. However it could nicely resolve to incorporate many wealthy options within the SERPs. These embrace reply bins, info graphs – in addition to components in and across the description itself, similar to star scores and ‘bounce to…’ hyperlinks.
As I coated in a current piece about visibility in modern-day SERPs, it is dependent upon how nicely marked up your content material is to ensure that the search engine to incorporate these options.
Curiously, for all of the wealthy performance of right this moment’s SERPs, the standard meta description continues to be extremely vital. Actually, with Google’s willingness to current longer descriptions – we may even argue that well-crafted 300 character descriptions may enhance visibility in addition to CTRs.
Google is more and more good, however it does its greatest job whether it is apparent from the best way our content material is written and marked up. The trick is getting the steadiness proper with making certain your markup is alerting the search spiders to the related info in your web page and making certain that your meta description is beneficial to your reader.
Google can have the ultimate say with whether or not it deems different content material in your website as extra helpful relying on the intent of your searcher – and will nicely show a tweaked snippet accordingly. If it has that possibility, because of the hassle we put into our onsite search engine marketing, we will count on the perfect expertise for our searchers.