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Has Google Reinvented Meta Content? New Meta Title & Description Length

If you’re a writer, online publisher, or marketer, it’s likely that you know a thing or two about meta descriptions and titles.

Used to improve SEO and help web pages earn more prominent Google rankings, meta titles and descriptions are short blurbs that help readers and search engines decide what content is about. While meta content may not be as exciting as Google algorithm updates or copywriting secrets, there’s been some big news in the world of meta content recently.

Earlier this month, Google announced some major changes to their meta title and description standards, and these changes will influence how SEOs everywhere regard meta content.

Read on to learn more.

meta content

Google’s Changes to Meta Content Standards

Google seldom releases news like this through loudspeakers and blow horns, so it’s not surprising that change was spotted on Twitter by a guy named Ross Hudgens. We heard about it through The SEM Post and Search Engine Journal, who reported on it later.

As it stands right now, Google’s character limits for title tags had increased by about ten characters: from 50-60 characters to 70-71 characters, which allows for longer and more in-depth descriptions and the inclusion of additional keywords.

What’s more, meta descriptions have increased to 100 characters per line and now allow for three lines in a description. Keep in mind, however, that this change is on a per-line basis and Google is still cutting off anything that runs over 160 characters, so it’s smart to stick to that limit for now.

Title Tag Changes

Currently, Google is allowing title tag lengths to be 70 characters. While it’s possible to push that limit to 71 characters by using small letters like “i,” Google generally truncates anything that runs over the limit. The new 70-character cap represents an increase of between 10-15 characters, which is huge news for savvy SEOs everywhere since the extra space can be used to include additional keywords or make a title tag more longer or more descriptive. While the specific length of this increase will vary depending upon the words used, many SEOs are managing to include 2-4 extra words in their title tags.

While the desktop changes are big news, the mobile title tag increase is what’s causing most SEOs to do a happy dance. As you probably know, mobile search is exploding right now, and it’s clear that the mobile character limit increase is Google’s effort to make mobile search more relevant and detailed than ever.

According to The SEM Post, Google bumped its mobile tag lengths up to 78 characters, which is a whopping 8 characters more than even the desktop limit. This longer mobile tag allows marketers to input additional keywords and reap the click-through benefits that the extended tag has to offer. What’s more, longer title tags on both mobile and desktop allow a search engine result to take up a larger space in the all-important SERPs, which makes it more visible and attractive to Google users.

Meta Description Changes

While many SEOs are jumping up and down at the prospect of longer descriptions (about 16-20 characters longer, to be exact, to a cap of 100 characters per line), it’s wise to remember that Google is still truncating descriptions after about two lines or 160 characters.

Because of this, it’s wise to ensure that you’re sticking to the 16- character limit, at least until it becomes clear that these changes are here to stay.

Should You Get Excited?

Yes! This is big news for SEOs, copywriters, and marketers. Meta content has always been important, but it’s also always been tough to create. While we still aren’t entirely sure whether these changes are A/B testing that Google will reverse in the near-future or long-lasting improvements that are here to stay, the prospect of larger meta content character limits is exciting in a few different ways.

Here are some of the main reasons we’re excited about the character limit increase:

  • Meta content will be easier to write. Brevity is hard. Anyone who has ever tried to craft a super-insightful tweet knows that getting the point across in just over 100 characters is tough. While the character limit increases aren’t massive, they offer just enough room to provide additional value and meaning in meta content.
  • Additional keyword inclusion. Right now, most SEOs are managing to add 2-4 words to title tags. This increase allows for additional keyword inclusion and more SEO-focused content. Just remember, never stuff your keywords in; a natural meta description is far better than a stuffed one, since you need a conversational, well-written meta in order to get more click-throughs on your piece from Google results.
  • Increased visibility. Longer meta content means more targeted results and increased visibility for all online material. This is good for marketers, search engines, and Google users.

What To Do Now

Since nobody is quite sure whether or not the character limit is here to stay, SEO experts are recommending that marketers measure their click-through-rates (CTRs) beginning before May 4th (the day that the change to the meta lengths took place). While it’s risky to alter your SEO efforts to fit the increased character limits before we know that they’re permanent, searching for any recent positive or negative changes will give you an idea of how and if your site has been affected.

In addition to monitoring your CTRs, you should also optimize your mobile and desktop title tags separately in order to ensure that they’re both adhering to their respective character limits. This helps ensure that your readers are getting the value they need from your content and that you’re getting the real estate you deserve in the SERPs.

The Future of the New Meta Title & Description Length

While there’s no telling whether or not Google will reverse the character limit increase, there’s also no doubt that this new change has the potential to help SEOs create more detailed and exciting meta content for readers and search engines alike. Because of this, the character limit increase has the potential to be a great revelation for the SEO community, and one that positively alters the way we think about meta content forever.

To learn more about breaking SEO, copywriting, and content marketing news, join our new Twitter Chat.

how to write meta content

How To Write Meta Descriptions And Titles: A Nutshell Guide

Poor metas.

From most business owners, they never get the attention they deserve.

When it’s time to create a blog or website page, many marketers see the part asking about meta descriptions and titles–and skip over it.

It’s a weird word. We get it.

Plus, when you Google search “meta” anything you come up with a plethora of daunting resources, and then you are smashed even further into confusion with more weird terms to associate with meta (i.e. SERPs, HTML, Panda, Penguin, meta titles, meta tags…you get where we’re going here).

But here’s the thing…

Meta description and titles are critical for your website.

That is if you want anyone ever to find it.

It is what feeds the search engine (with the right keywords), but also what drives a user to click on a particular search engine result. Without meta, your site is just another result sitting on the page with nothing to offer.

how to write meta descriptions and titles

What Is A Meta Description?

The meta description is an HTML tag.

Don’t hyperventilate at the “HTML” letters. HTML is a good thing.

Meta descriptions are what get a visitor to click on your page from the search engine results. So, they are a superb thing.

Here’s how a meta description tag will typically look:

<meta name=”description” content=”Your page’s description goes here.”/>

Google doesn’t care what you have in your meta description, or so they say. However, Google does use your site’s click-through rate to determine if you are a good result for them to keep suggesting to users in the future.

So, yes, it does matter to Google.

You can find your website’s own click-through-rate (CTR) on your Google WebMaster Tools. Here you will locate the number of clicks, impressions, and the original query alongside the CTR percentage.

Philip Petrescu at Moz shared an excellent example of what a CTR result will look like:

ctr

You can check your own on your WebMaster Tools right now.

So, What Is The Meta Title?

The meta title is the SEO title of your post. It is the title that the search engine will display along with your meta description.

So again, paramount.

A study conducted in 2014 by the American Press Institute found that six out of 10 consumers read headlines only. They won’t read your description and they may not even read your entire article, but the headline is what drives them to the content and your page to begin with.

When using a platform like WordPress, you will notice that you have the option to write out your SEO title and meta description. Then, the system will let you preview what your description and title would look like in a search engine result. The tool that makes this happen is called the Yoast SEO plugin. Like so:

meta example 1

This is a valuable tool that you shouldn’t overlook. Being able to see what the final product would look like in a search engine result page can help you better decide how likely a person is to click on it.

How To Write A Meta Description And Title Like a Boss

Now that you know what a meta description is, and why it matters, you need to know how to create one that gets users to click and Google to notice.

1. Keep The Number Of Characters Correct

Okay, this is where it can get a little tricky.

Google is not big on giving exact numbers. Instead, they will decide how many they add to the search result and how much they want to show for your description.

Sometimes they’ll add the date it was published, which reduces the character count, according to Yoast.

The rule of thumb, however, is to keep it under 155 characters in case Google does inject some of their data in there.

Google has been playing around with longer lengths for their meta descriptions. You might have already noticed a few when you do a Google search of your own.

Here’s one I found:

meta

Moz lucked out with a beautiful, long snippet from Google. In that same search engine result page, this was the only one that was extended. The rest were the usual characters.

According to Rebecca Sentance at Search Engine Watch, Google is also playing around with the length of tags; possibly squeezing them up to 69-70 characters.

For now, keep the title tag at the standard 50 to 60 characters until Google makes their stretch official and permanent. After all, you don’t want your title being cut off.

According to Moz, if you aim for less than 55 characters, you can guarantee your title will appear properly in the search engine results.

2. Use The Right Keywords In Your Description And Title

Yes, it’s confusing to be told to use keywords when you are also told that Google doesn’t use your meta description as a way to influence search engine results.

Yes, we get that.

However, keywords do matter. The keywords you’re targeting must show up in your meta description. That way, when the search engine identifies them in your description, they will bold them in the snippet for the user too.

This allows the user to judge how relevant your snippet is to what they’re searching for.

When it comes to meta titles, you need keywords. Search engines look for them in your content. These title tags are what tell a search engine and visitors what your site is about. The title is also what may be pulled as anchor text when your content is shared on social media.

So, yes, add your targeted keyword into the title if you can. Never squeeze in a keyword that doesn’t fit or is awkward; that’s just bad SEO.

3. Remember A Human Is Reading The Description

The description isn’t for your search engine rank; it’s for the reader. Therefore, it should be written for a human.

The days of slamming every single keyword into the description and walking away are over. Instead, you need to be able to squeeze something actionable and entertaining into less than 155 characters.

This is critical!

The description is short, succinct, but enticing. The reader should be compelled to click through and read more and almost feel as though they’re missing out if they don’t.

Here’s an example for you to chew on:

meta example 2

In this sample, you can see our title is about 10 SEO Writing Tips: Conquer & Rule Your Online Content Castle. Already we have a fun, character-correct title that is catchy.

However, we still need to reel in the reader with the description.

To make it fun and playful (and keep with the creativity in the title), we talk about defeating foes and the dragon with our SEO writing tips.

In this description we:

  • Told the reader why they should read — good reason to click (in storytelling lingo at that!)
  • Given them powerful adjectives to think about (enlightened and delighted).

4. Always Make The Description Match The Content

This is critical for search engines.

While Google may tell you that they don’t use descriptions to influence rankings, if your content doesn’t match the description and you trick a visitor into coming to your website, Google will be taking it up with you.

You could be penalized for creating that description, and you will have one heck of a bounce rate.

Where the bounce rate occurs and how high it is could affect your Google rank too, according to Adam Stetzer at Search Engine Watch. So, that is something to consider when you’re thinking of creating a sneaky description just to get someone over to your website.

5. Never Duplicate Your Meta Descriptions Or Titles

A title tag and a meta description can never be duplicated.

Google’s own Matt Cutts has made it clear not to do so. It’s an SEO no-no that will land you in hot water and could result in severe penalties for your website.

Instead, you need to consider what you’ve written and come up with something original, catchy, and entertaining.

If you have pages that are similar to one another, you still need to alter the text.

6. Create A Sense Of Urgency

Most importantly, you should create a sense of urgency within your meta description. That tells the reader what they will get if they click through now. You don’t have to put a time limit — after all, it could be evergreen content.

However, you want to make the reader feel as though they’re missing out on something big if they blow it off.

Sometimes just saying “things you must know now,” is all it takes for a reader to get into action and click.

Monitor, Review, Repeat

Lastly, do not write a description and walk away.

Instead, you need to continue to monitor the progress of that description and see how effective it is. This is done by measuring your CTR data. If you aren’t getting clicks, try changing it up and see if that helps improve your click-through-rate.

Writing Meta Descriptions And Titles For Your Target Audience Can Be Done

Now you know the meta basics, and you no longer have to run scared when WordPress prompts you.

However, if you find yourself stuck or you just aren’t ready to tackle the task and commit to writing them, you have options.

The team at Express Writers can help you not only create compelling, click-worthy metas, but we can also create content that is equally impressive for today’s user.

Need great metas? Check out our meta description writing services in our Content Shop today.