Recently, Google confirmed that they’re not only increasing the character limit for snippets, but also utilizing a more dynamic algorithm for snippets. Google snippets are the written text that accompany organic search results, found underneath each results’ URL on search engine results pages (SERPs).
A Google spokesperson told Search Engine Land, “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.”
Historically, Google’s algorithms have commonly used a webpage’s meta description — a concise description of a webpage tagged in the page’s HTML — as the snippet, allowing search marketers to exert control over the text appearing with their organic search results.
Prior to November 2017, Google’s best practices stated that meta descriptions should not exceed 160 characters. Danny Sullivan, Google’s Public Liaison for Search, unofficially recommended on Twitter that meta descriptions should now be no longer than 320 characters:
Additionally, instead of relying on meta descriptions, Google will also dynamically generate snippets based on the search performed. Historically, for searches where Google’s algorithm didn’t or couldn’t use a meta description as the snippet, it would show an excerpt from on-page copy. With this update, Google will be able to show more characters of text in the snippet and will show pertinent on-page copy instead of a meta description when deemed appropriate based on the search query.
Resolution Media, and Google’s Experts, do not recommend immediately overhauling your current meta description strategy.
However, strategically testing longer meta descriptions for certain landing pages can offer learnings and wins.
As Google strives to “provide more descriptive and useful snippets,” Google will display on-page copy in search results, showing the importance of website copy optimized for search. Furthermore, with longer snippets, organic SERPs become more competitive: two organic results will take up the same space that three organic listings did previously. Accordingly, as always, success starts with SEO fundamentals.