Oldies music fans may remember the 1968 top hit entitled “Girl Watcher.” This beach music classic’s chorus often spins through my head. The chorus — “I’m a girl watcher, I’m a girl watcher, watchin’ girls go by, my, my, my” — is for me: “I’m a Google watcher … watchin’ changes come by, my, my, my.”
Most organic SEO practitioners are Google watchers and we are seldom disappointed, as more changes just keep coming by — my, my, my. The changes often make our job of obtaining solid search results for sites more difficult.
For example, a recent change to the space allocated to advertising on the desktop search results page (SERP) had a significant impact on organic visibility. In a recent post, I noted a major change — the removal of ads from the right rail of the page — and outlined how this would make organic marketing more difficult.
Google watchers have not had to wait long for another change to come by. Google has changed the display of the organic search results, the coveted lines that determine what searchers see about your pages. The company actually increased the space available for your title and description. This change should make it just a bit easier to obtain good results for relevant pages.
What’s the Change?
Google has increased the width of its main search results column. This will provide more real estate for search marketers to make their cases through compelling titles and descriptions.
Google has increased the space available from 500 to 600 pixels. This is a significant increase, and here is why it is important:
- Titles Get 10 to 15 More Characters in SERPs. When a title or description is too long, Google simply truncates it and places ellipses at the end. Google uses proportional spacing, and SEOs think in terms of characters, which means that SEOs must develop carefully constructed recommended character lengths that take into consideration the composition of the keywords and phrases used predominantly in their target content. The change from 500 to 600 pixels translates into approximately 10 to 15 more characters available for titles. This will allow SEOs to include more phrases, more branding and enable us to make the title more compelling.
- Descriptions Get 16 to 20 More Characters in SERPs. The length of the description has been impacted, too. Descriptions increase by about 16 to 20 characters per line. That makes the new length per line approximately 100 characters. But do note that Google still is truncating descriptions longer than 150 to 160 characters. Google watchers expect this to adjust, because descriptions are for the most part two lines. If your descriptions are less than 100 characters, yours will be only one line — resulting in a loss of real estate on the page.
- Mobile Results Get More Love. These changes do not just apply to desktop searches. Google has increased title tag lengths for mobile search results even more than in desktop results. Google has now increased the maximum length of the mobile title tag to approximately 78 characters. This is an extra eight characters beyond the desktop display. This will speed users to the most relevant result faster. In my own experience using mobile search, nothing is worse than having to search multiple times to get a desired result on my mobile. A more detailed result will shorten the process.
It Is Not Enough to Win Just the Relevancy Battle
Organic search success requires that your pages not only win the relevancy battle — that is to say, the pages are deemed relevant by Google for the searcher’s query — but the search result also must resonate with the searcher enough to make the searcher want to click on the listing.
This oversimplification of a very complex process points out how important it is to be mindful of what the searcher sees as your pages are delivered. It is not enough to create compelling relevant content, if you fail to create a title and description that draws that next click.
The most recent changes provide an opportunity to revisit how well your current schematic for titles and descriptions is working. It also begs for a review of the role of mobile search traffic. You may find that you need to reconsider how you are crafting these elements. This is what I am doing for my clients.
This change is an opportunity for better results for good pages.