At the end of last year Google expanded the length of the snippets shown in the search results – the additional content below the main clickable blue link in the results, that provide more information about the webpage being listed. But what does this mean for SEO?
The search snippets in Google’s results are designed to provide the searcher with more information about what to expect on the website page once they click on the result. It should therefore be relevant to the page, and can also be an important element to generate interest and a click on the listing, although Google has said for some years that this content doesn’t influence ranking performance.
The content for this snippet may be taken from the website page content, or from the description metatag, depending on which content is more relevant to the searcher’s query. The search terms used in the query will also be emboldened in the snippet where included, so this can be a good way for a website to stand out as being more relevant for a search query and therefore more likely to attract the clickthrough.
From an SEO perspective, it’s best practice to write a good description tag to try to control the content that Google will show in the results. It should reflect the main search terms being targeted on the page within the page content and title tag, so that there is some alignment of the core terms, as well as a strong marketing message to attract the searcher onto the page.
The snippet length was traditionally restricted to about 2 lines of text (or around 160-180 characters), but this has now been extended to up to 4 lines for many searches (around 250-300 characters). Google’s intention is to make the results more descriptive and useful for the searcher (and also look more like the expanded text AdWords ads with extensions!).
It can therefore be advisable to take advantage of this extra space to make your search listings more prominent and to include some good, relevant and appealing information for the searcher. However, it’s still important to include the main search terms and message in the first few lines, to attract that attention and in case Google reverts back to shorter descriptions again in the future.
It’s also recommended to check some of the main search rankings where your site is appearing in the results and see how the description snippet appears, and how it reads compared to other results. What else could be added, how can the search query be better used, and could different message be tested in the content?
You can read Google’s advice about creating good meta description content, or you can contact us for more help or information.