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New longer descriptions in Google: what should we do?

I’ve already talked about Google’s new extended descriptions and why I think they might be putting businesses who’ve made an effort with their website presentation at a disadvantage. If you’re a business which has spent time and effort crafting nice 160-character description meta tags for all of your pages, what should you do now?

In an ideal world, you’d just update all your description meta tags to take advantage of the new upper limit of around 300 characters. But that’s not a practical short term measure for most of us. This blog has over 2400 pages. So we need to update the important ones. What’s more, we need to update them, bearing in mind what searches they’re being shown for.

What are the important pages?

Here’s where Google Search Console comes to our rescue. This lets us see the searches which are giving us the most traffic. Go to the “Search Analytics” report, and set the dates to the longest period you have available (this used to be 90 days, but if you’re on the new version of Search Console it can be longer).

What I then like to do is to select the “Pages” report, which gives me a list of the pages getting the most traffic from Google search. At the end of the line is an arrow which takes us to details about that page. Now select “Queries” here, and we get a list of the searches which brought most people to the page. Adding “Impressions” to the data may be helpful too: sometimes this can highlight additional searches that are made a lot, but which we don’t get so much traffic for because we’re low down in the ranking.

This is the best information we’ve got for writing a new, 300-character description meta tag for that Google page.

If you’re tight for time, just get that description updated, getting as many of the highlighted search terms in as possible, while making it an attractive few lines of text that will encourage people to click on the link. Bear in mind the page’s title; the description should work in conjunction with this.

If you have more time – and it is worth the effort – then use this opportunity to take a look at the page itself, and see if the important terms are on the page. Do not stuff the description or the page content with slightly different versions of the same general term, but do try to include the different words which crop up prominently in the searches.

For example, one of the most popular pages on this blog appears to be one about linking a YouTube channel to a website (I really must check that page is up to date, as it’s so popular!). According to Google Search Console, the main searches sending people to the page (or for which it’s appearing, somewhere) are:

  • add website to youtube channel
  • how do i link my youtube channel to my website
  • how to add my youtube channel to my website
  • how to add website link to youtube channel
  • how to add website to youtube channel
  • how to link website to youtube channel
  • how to link youtube channel to website
  • link youtube channel to website
  • youtube channel link
  • youtube channel website link

So what this page needs is a bit of updating to give it a new, longer description meta tag which contains a phrase which somehow incorporates everything above, and works appealingly. The title (and headline) is already “How to link your YouTube channel to your website”, which covers 6 or 7 of those 10 searches, but the word “add” is an obvious omission, so I should probably ensure that, at least, is in the description. In the end, I’ve opted for:

How to link your YouTube channel to your website
(Updated How-To) Add a website link to your YouTube channel and you can get huge SEO benefits. Here’s a simple guide how to do it by using cards. You’ll need a Google Search Console account set up and your YouTube account needs to be verified.

When done, you can submit the page to Google (rather than wait for it to be found naturally). In Google Search Console, go to “Fetch as Google”, submit the page, then click “request indexing”.

All done? Now go back to the pages report in Google Search Console and repeat the whole exercise for the next page on the list, and as many as you can make time for.