Whilst you might not recognise the term, everyone here is familiar with a Google SERP (Search Engine Results Page). On the off chance of any confusion, it looks like this …
As you can see, there are a number of links, URLs and descriptions that line up nicely underneath my search. Due to the limited amount of space available on the page, there are restrictions on the volume of content that can be displayed. Google has until recently capped these as:
- 50-60 characters for title pages;
- 80-84 characters per line for meta descriptions;
- 2 lines for meta descriptions; and
- 500 pixels of space.
The challenge of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), for professionals and amateurs alike, is getting a user friendly description to fit in this space AND fill it with as many keywords as possible.
Changes to SERP
A change to these conventions was first publicly noted by a @RossHudgens on the 6th May.
As Ross correctly identifies, one of the notable changes is that title tags have been elongated, although they actually have moved to 70 and 71 characters long. Other changes are:
- the characters per description line has increased to 100;
- a third line for descriptions has been added; and
- an additional 100 pixels of space (totalling 600).
Ultimately these changes will have a small impact on what you are able to say about your pages but it could still have a big impact on SEO. The new title tags will allow for an addition of up to two to four words depending on their size. Therefore, anyone going back and adjusting their tags might look to simply just bolt the company name onto the end.
There is still a need to take caution with these changes. Descriptions for many search results are still being truncated by Google and so not all the information will be displayed. See the example below where half of the second line is cut off, despite this being a custom description written to fit within the character count or use a | as a nice separator (as you will see in this posts title on Google).
The bizarre thing is that this is leaving the second line shortened to almost half the length of the first, so lots of space is being wasted for apparently no reason.
Before you rush out and change your content for the new SERP rules
Google is a company that is self-professed to be in a continuous testing phase and what I am writing here today could be reverted back to the old rules by tomorrow. So whilst these new rules would make life a bit easier for the SEO industry, having to try and cram everything into a slightly larger space, they may be deemed negative overall by Google.
We would advise checking your click through rates from before the start of May and today to see if there is any change – positive or negative. If you see action is necessary, maybe wait until June before deciding to invest the time to make the changes but at no point can you be certain that these are permanent.
Have you noticed a change in your click through rates since this change? If so we’d love to hear about the impact this is having, drop me a line on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Title image from Fat Guy Media.Browser, Google, Internet, Optimisation, Search, SERP, Website