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Google updates meta description snippets to fit 320 characters
Big update coming from Google this week! Remeber how for years now the absolute limit of meta description was 160 characters with a few occasional test where Google allowed bigger snippets but quickly reverted back to normal? Not anymore!
In fact, 160 characters weren't really ideal since Google rarely fitted all 160 characters into a search result meta description.
I personally always kept my meta descriptions not bigger than 155 characters, and I put my best into optimizing them with the right keywords and the right call to actions.
Google now claims that the maximum number of characters a meta description can have is 320.
At first, I thought to myself this is an excellent move and update, nothing this big happened in the SEO world in a long time. Yoast had to update their SEO plugin to fit the new number of characters regarding meta descriptions and every guru and SEO blog went crazy explaining this update.
So what are the benefits of having a bigger meta description?
Well, you can fit more content, more keywords and in general, you have a lot more text to work with. This will increase your chances of convincing users your result should be the one they need to click on
Apart from the obvious benefits, I discovered a few cons while testing and researching results with bigger meta description snippets.
The first thing I noticed was that Google completely ignored your custom meta description when showing the extended versions in search results. Where once 155 characters of custom, properly optimized descriptions where shown, now I got 320 characters of poorly selected text from the content itself. In other words, Google decided to ignore my meta description entirely and in turn, just changed it with some random text from found on the page;
This leaves me with the following questions:
1. This makes me wonder: if Google implements whatever meta description it wants, why should we waste time on creating custom meta descriptions anymore?
2. Is there a new optimal number of characters for meta descriptions? Like 240 or something? Because I bet, Google will rarely fit all 320 characters for EVERY result out there. Short meta descriptions will probably be around for years to come.
3. When and how exactly will Google respect the meta descriptions we set over whatever random text the algorithm finds on the page? I know Google used this tactic in the past, where it will pick some text from the content as a meta description if your custom meta description was weak or not related to the subject at hand, I have clients that virtually lost all custom meta descriptions when searching for various queries that once shown custom meta description ONLY.
4. Should we all start writing big meta descriptions now? Of course, bigger snippets may attract more organic clicks, but that doesn't change the fact that smaller, classic meta description may do a better job in the end.
5. How long will this last? It would be a real pain to start writing 320 characters meta descriptions for the next few months, only to find out that Google is reverting back to the 160 characters standard. To be fair Google did increase the title tag length a few years ago, and longer title tag results are still around, although not as common as I'm seeing long meta descriptions now.
What do you think about this new change and update coming from Google? I think that time will tell and we all need to implement more tests to answer all these questions. If any of you have more answers or information, please share them in the comments down below!