Updated June 14, 2018: Late last year we told you about Google increasing the length of featured snippets in Search Engine results. Well, you can forget all that now!

According to Google’s Danny Sullivan,

“… search snippets are now shorter on average than in recent weeks, though slightly longer than before a change we made last December.”

So do I need to retract everything I wrote last December? Yes and no. 😉

Where We’re At (Since May 2018)

Prior to December 2018, Google’s featured snippet length (those page descriptions that show up on your search results) was 160-180 characters. Then in December, they increased the length to around 300 characters. Now they’ve decreased the featured snippet length although they’re not as short as they were last year.

Just when you thought you were gaining a handle on all this SEO stuff, Google mixes it up again! Let’s see how the change in featured snippets will affect you – both as a user and if you have your own website.

Longer (or Shorter) featured snippets are an Opportunity to Improve SEO

If you are customizing the meta description manually, this may be an opportunity for you to increase the length of your description. It provides more opportunity to include your keyword or better explain the purpose of your page so your page ranks higher in Google’s search results.

If you let Google dynamically populate your featured snippet, it’s  best to leave things alone. Google considers what words are being used in a search and can grab content from your site to customize the snippet you see in a search. Take a search for our local zoo as an example. If I search “zoo Seattle” this is what Google gives me this:Featured snippet for Google search: zoo Seattle

By contrast, a search for “zoo Washington State” clearly gives a different (and longer) featured snippet:

Featured snippet for Google search: zoo Washington State

Google suggests that “adding description meta tags to each of your pages is always a good practice in case Google cannot find a good selection of text to use in the snippet.” Whether you manually create your featured snippet (by editing the meta description on the back end) or let Google populate it dynamically,  taking the time to review your snippets can never be bad for SEO.

Longer Featured Snippets are Less Restrictive

Ever struggle with getting your point across with before Twitter expanded their 140 character limit? The same goes for featured snippets.  It’s now easier and quicker to include the info you want to show up in the search results. No more re-wording things to try to get the best bang for your buck. Less time on SEO means you can put that time towards other things your website and/or business needs.

Longer (or Shorter) Featured Snippets Create a Better User Experience

Featured snippets (no matter their length) benefit everyone, really. They make it easier when you or a potential client/customer wants to search for something. You can more easily find what it is you’re searching for without having to click on multiple sites or do multiple searches. It may even help you determine more quickly which link you’re actually going to click on.A Google search page for the word “analytics” on a mobile phone

The Take-Away

Featured snippets that match the content of your page can you help you rank better in search engine results.  Perhaps this change is forcing you to review your SEO – which can only make your site better. It can help generate more traffic to your site. Last, but definitely not least, it makes it easier for the user (you or a potential client/customer) to find what they’re actually searching for.

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