Given the importance of these few sentences, the significance of Google’s SERP changes with the character limits in headlines and page descriptions becomes clear. Here is what you need to know about the expanded titles and page descriptions and how they will impact your site optimization process.
What are marketers seeing with Google's SERP changes?
The increase of title characters in Google SERPs was first spotted by Ross Hudgens who reported the findings on Twitter May 6.
Google has increased the number of pixels given to each result listing-- bumping the space from 500 to 600 pixels. There is now a wider space given to each result and an increase in the number of characters available for titles and descriptions. Generally, we are seeing a title increase from 50-60 characters to 70-71 characters.
On mobile, the space given for expanded titles has increased even further, with results often receiving as many as 78 character spaces.
Meta descriptions have expanded from an average of 156 characters on two lines to nearly 300 characters on 3 to 4 lines.
It is important to note, however, that Google’s meta description cut-off has rarely been a cemented rule. Even before these changes, there were reports of certain meta descriptions being afforded more than the commonly accepted 156 characters. Even now, not every result has seen this increase, and some are still just being given the two lines. This is true even for results appearing for the same query.
What do expanded titles and page descriptions mean for marketers?
Google regularly experiments with their display, so it is unknown whether this change will be permanent or even if it will eventually roll out to impact all sites. For the moment, however, the extra characters provide brands with the opportunity to be more descriptive and demonstrate clear relevance for particular keywords and topics. Specifically, this change will help marketers to target long-tail keywords in their expanded titles.
We would recommend the following:
- Remember, write for your audience, not for specifically for Google, ensuring audience value for attracting clicks from the SERPs. The goal is to pair audience behavior following SEO best practices for headlines on page titles and image titles
- Keep your targeted and actionable keywords in the first few positions. This will help protect you should the parameters of the results boxes shift again.
- In a semantic world, meaningful and closely-related keywords should also appear in the title.
- If your title exceeds 70 characters be aware that Google may replace your title with one it auto-generates. Also, keep in mind that the words past 70 characters are still important for Google’s interpretation of the page, but those keywords will have less bearing on drawing the conversion from the SERP.
- Optimize your title for mobile first if your website has a majority percentage coming from mobile, meaning write it assuming it will wrap to two lines.
- Include targeted keywords and semantically related keywords in the description.
- Make meta descriptions actionable and include the keyword targets as early in the first sentence as possible.
- For brands that have shorter meta descriptions, particularly those that are 100 characters or less, it is a good idea to expand the text. The widening of the results means that more lines can be covered. In this situation, a short meta description might only take up a single line, which can drastically reduce your visibility on the SERP, particularly when placed next to a site that has over 200 characters.
- As you create new posts or pages, expand your meta descriptions, as this will help them increase their real estate on the SERP. When you fill out the entire description, you impact how much space you take up, helping to draw more eyes towards your results.
- When you write expanded descriptions, remember to always place value for the reader above everything else-- do not add fluff to just increase the word count.
Since SEOs are still testing and experimenting to understand why certain results are showing the expanded meta description and others are not, it is not necessary for everyone to rewrite all of their meta descriptions right now. Instead, using the longer, more descriptive language should be the focus for future pages. The exception would be sites that have extremely short descriptions-- under 100 characters-- which should be amended to avoid being minimized on the SERP.
Google regularly changes and updates the appearance of their search result pages in an effort to make things easier for the end-user. This recent addition to the number of characters to be displayed for query results gives sites more space to describe their worth to users, which can help boost click-throughs for relevant sites.
Brands should be aware of these changes as they develop their pages and pay close attention to the adjustments that the search engine giant will be making in the future. Also, review our insight research on the February change to the paid ads in the SERPs.