Google shortens meta descriptions after expanding them six months ago
By Stephen Hudson - Digital Marketing Consultant.
Google's at it again! Just six months after the search engine powerhouse confirmed that it was increasing the length of meta descriptions in the search results, it has moved the goal posts and now decreased the length of these snippets. The announcement, made by Google's Danny Sullivan on Twitter, revealed that Google’s search snippets are now shorter on average compared to recent weeks. He also added that many meta descriptions are slightly longer than before the increased snippet lengths were introduced in December.
Despite Google telling SEO consultants back in December that they shouldn’t suddenly expand their meta description lengths, many did, meaning the efforts of SEOs have been wasted. In their announcement last December, Google said there isn’t a fixed length for meta descriptions, and that lengths are based on what Google’s systems deem to be most useful. Google added that it will no longer state the maximum length for meta descriptions as the search engine generates them dynamically from the content of the website.
Does this mean that SEO marketers should now go back and shorten their meta descriptions? Well, Google’s official advice is to not focus on them too much as the snippets displayed on the search results are dynamically generated. A recent study by Yoast has actually found that most meta descriptions displayed on the search results are actually generated from the content on the web pages.
Google keeps moving the goal posts
I’m sure my fellow SEO colleagues will agree that our industry is heavily influenced (possibly dictated to) by Google, and so changes such as this are extremely irritating, especially if you don’t have the resources to go back through a large site and update meta descriptions.
I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that Google changes its mind on the size of meta descriptions again in the future, so if you haven’t shortened your snippets yet, I wouldn’t rush to do so, likewise, if your descriptions are short, I wouldn’t necessarily jump on the bandwagon and increase them should Google change its mind again.
As anyone in the SEO industry will attest to, Google is frequently moving the goal posts, making SEO an often frustrating, but ultimately rewarding marketing channel. Whether it’s PPC ads, ranking signals, guest blogs or keywords, Google’s always updating and tweaking the way it works and ranks websites, which makes the job of an SEO consultant challenging, fast-paced and extremely exciting, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
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