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Latest Google Updates: The Implications for Digital Publishers

A look at the latest Google updates reveals some more room to operate for online magazines aiming for maximized organic SEO

Turns out Twitter’s not the only internet superpower mulling over scaffolding possibilities. News of the latest Google updates shows that its experimenting with counts – if not characters, then certainly pixels, in the search giant’s case.

Search Engine Watch reports that Google has tested – and is still testing, at least as of this writing – lengthened title tags and widened featured snippets for search engine results pages on both desktop and mobile. Desktop is up from 50-60 to 69-70 characters (although not exact because Google technically uses pixels, this conversion is of more practical purpose for digital publishers), while mobile counts have jumped even more, into the high 70s.

This, of course, comes in the wake of Google widening the main search results column from 500 to 600 pixels, which has meant an increase of upward of 100 characters for meta descriptions. But as Search Engine Watch points out, while some descriptions have extended to three lines, Google still snips most at two line and about 150 characters.

In addition, even link colors have undergone some A/B testing, with shades of blue and, yes, black (which turn gray, not purple, when clicked), on SERPs. It’s hard to say what the impact of such a move would amount to beyond cosmetics, but it’s clear that the expanded counts themselves could mean some improved organic SEO for publishers.

“The most immediately obvious benefit of longer title tags and descriptions is more room to fit in keywords. While this is true, it’s also 2016, which means we can do a lot more interesting things with the extra characters – after all, it’s not just about keywords any more. The first is that longer titles and descriptions would allow more room for long-tail keywords, three or four-word phrases that tend to indicate that searchers are closer to taking action or making a purchase, making them extremely valuable for marketers,” Rebecca Sentance writes.

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“Similarly, the increased room in search results would give website owners more opportunity to use natural language in their titles and descriptions. Natural language queries are search queries that use full, everyday language instead of short, disjointed keywords. They are becoming more common as voice search is on the rise and search engines are increasingly able to interpret specific, multi-part queries. … In theory, SEOs should adapt to this trend in order to give their websites the best chance of ranking for natural language search queries, but with a limit on how much will fit on the search results page, this is easier said than done. … Extending the length of titles and descriptions might be Google’s way of acknowledging this and adjusting the SERP to allow for it.”

Sentance also addresses the split with mobile.

“The new length difference between mobile and desktop title tags probably presents the most interesting challenge for SEOs. There has always been a bit of a difference in the way that title tags display on desktop versus mobile, with mobile title tags displaying across two lines instead of one line on desktop,” she writes.

“But if the longer title tags that we’ve been seeing on desktop and mobile both become hard changes, then many site owners will have to make a call: optimise for desktop, or for mobile? Or try to find a middle ground … There’s also the possibility that more website owners will choose to spin off their mobile presence into a separate site – m.example.com – instead of simply employing a responsive design for their main site, in order to have the best of both worlds.”

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To read more about the latest Google updates and other industry news, visit Search Engine Watch.

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