What does Google Has Wider SERPs Mean?

It means that the Search Engine Results Pages are now being displayed in a wider format on your computer and tablet. Previously, the view able width of Google SERPs was about 55-60 characters, depending on the actual characters used, as some characters, like w are much wider than others, like i.  The actual increase is best measured in something more fixed, pixel width.  The previous Google SERP display width was 500 pixles and is now 600 pixels.  Google has made up the difference by resizing some other areas on the page.

What Does a Wider SERP Mean to Me?

This wider display format changes some of the recommendations and guidelines regarding the meta data that you should be using on each of your pages.  The immediate conclusion is that you can now include more text content in your meta title tag and in your meta description.  Title length is increased from 10 to 15 characters (before Google adds the … at the end of your title) and description length is increased from 15 to 20 characters.  However, a more significant result may be organic search results currently positioned in about the 4th through 6th spots in the search results.  Guess what, you might now appear on the first screen, without scrolling.  This will happen if some of the multi-line listings end up needing one less line.  That is, descriptions in the current length, that were wrapping over to 3 lines now might fit within 2 lines of text.  If these listings are above you, they will be less tall and your position will shift up on the page.

Should I Re-Write all my Titles and Descriptions to be Longer?

Not necessarily.  First lets deal with meta titles.  Just because you have more space does not mean you need to fill it.  If you have painstakingly worked to craft precise meta titles to fit within 55 characters, then you have done important things.  The first is you have adhered to the old guideline.  The old titles still fit within the new available space so there is no NEED to re-write based on this.  Secondly, good titles are highly focused on the key topic of the page and by keeping a current title in place, you maintain that focus on what’s important.  The temptation will now be to add another keyword variation into the title, or similar thoughts.  Resist the urge to add more to already good titles.

Descriptions on the other hand I would take full advantage of the increased length, especially if an additional two to four words can deliver a more convincing reason for someone to click your search result.  Remember that search engines don’t use meta descriptions as ranking signals, but humans use them to choose what results to click.  Again, don’t spam by stuffing with keywords, but do tell a more convincing story and improve your click through rate, which is a ranking signal.

Where Should I re-Write Meta Titles to be Longer?

There are some places where adding content to the meta titles makes good sense.  First, anywhere you had to abbreviate words you can now write them out.  Secondly, this gives you the opportunity to replace a meta title on a secondary or supporting page with a longer tail version to more accurately target the content of a page.  Thirdly, if you have pages where you have sacrificed branding for SEO efforts, you can now use the extra characters to add your branding to your titles.

Where Should I Re-Write Meta Descriptions to be Longer?

Simple.  Everywhere you can.  As mentioned above, use the longer description display to tell a stronger story and improve your click through rate.  Maybe this is adding a key stat or a key differentiating feature of your product. Review your descriptions with the thought of what one additional piece of information would help convince the user to click your listing?

Page Analysis Tools Will Eventually Catch Up

If you use some sort of SEO software with on-page optimization analysis, you will find that the tools are behind and any scoring factors or recommendations will be based on the old SERP width guidelines.  As a result, your page scoring or page optimization suggestions may not reflect the new SERP width for now.  You will have to consciously ignore those warnings or red flags, knowing that the Google search engine environment is working on a new set of desirable content lengths.  For example, I have written a meta title for this page that is exactly 70 characters long (“Google SERPs are now Wider | Meta Titles and Descriptions can Increase”) and one of my SEO tools says “Warning: Title display in Google is limited to a fixed width, yours is too long.”  Under the 55 character guideline, it would have displayed as “Google SERPs are now Wider | Meta Titles and Descriptions …” The tools simply have not caught up to the new guidelines.  I have a similar warning that my meta page description (“Google has increased the width of their Search Engine Results Page format.  You now have more width, more characters that can be used to grab attention and tell your story.”) is 16 characters too long.