“Twice the character limit, twice the opportunities, twice the fun?”

That’s how many digital marketers have responded to the news that Google has doubled the character limit allowed in the meta description tag from 160 to 320 characters.

Google’s press statement was as follows: “We recently made a change to provide more descriptive and useful snippets, to help people better understand how pages are relevant to their searches. This resulted in snippets becoming slightly longer, on average.”

That’s good news all round, but how best to capitalise on the opportunities the extended character limit presents? Using the extra text to promote your brand and increase your click-through-rates — which contributes to stronger rankings — is a good place to start.

But should you start updating and optimising all your meta descriptions right now? Opinions differ, but many SEO experts believe that you don’t actually need to because, sometimes, Google shows the meta description in SERPs but other times it shows a snippet from the article to show the user that the search result is relevant to their search term/keyword.

Take the Inc article, “Google Expanded the Length Allowed in the Meta Description Tag. That’s Big News for Your Website” as an example for the search term “new metadata character limits”.

Below you can see the page’s meta description in the Moz toolbar. It weighs in at 148 characters.

Originally the local pack appeared down below the organic listings and showed 7 businesses:

However, Google hasn’t used the meta description in its SERP but has instead taken a snippet from the article. As you can see, the snippet totals 310 characters, nearly twice the previously allowed meta description count.

You can also see that the snippet contains more of the keywords in the search term “new metadata character limits” than the page’s meta description.

With that in mind, whether you’re pressed for time or not, it’s likely a good idea to view this as an ongoing SEO strategy rather than an opportunity to update your existing meta descriptions. But moving forward:

  • Increase the character count of your meta descriptions
  • Provide a more in-depth analysis of the page’s content
  • Include search terms relevant to your primary keyword
  • Focus on improving the click-through-rate of your links

And lastly, don’t engage in keyword stuffing — this is an opportunity to improve your SERP rankings by giving users more reasons to click on your links, not cop a penalty from the Big G that sees you languishing way back on Page 10.

Bambrick Media is a digital marketing company in Brisbane. SEO, PPC and Social Media Marketing are our core service offerings, along with Website Design. To discuss your digital marketing goals with a member of the team, please get in touch via our Contact page.