In December 2017, the big brains at Google-owned up to a fairly major organic search algorithm update: Google essentially doubled the acceptable length of meta descriptions in the SERPs. While savvy and observant SEOs noticed Google experimenting with longer snippets in the preceding months, the expanded meta descriptions have officially been rolled out. This provides new opportunities, new challenges, and new uncertainties for your hotel in organic search.
Since Blue Magnet recently provided the hospitality industry with a comprehensive walk-through for writing optimized meta descriptions, this post will forego a review of best practices. Instead, we will look at what this algorithm update means for your hotel website, how the changes will benefit your organic efforts, and how to strategically approach your meta description updates.
How Meta Descriptions Changed
Prior to December, Google displayed roughly 155 characters (920 pixels) in meta descriptions. Now, hoteliers have the luxury of utilizing 300-320 characters (1840 pixels) to satisfy searcher intent or convince potential guests to click through to your site.
Before December 2017, Google required you to keep it short and sweet before truncating you at 920 pixels. Vallejo Hotel’s previous meta description registered at 146 characters (854 pixels):
If you published a meta description longer than 920 pixels, Google truncated your copy, leaving searchers with an incomplete (and sloppy looking) snippet:
Now you have more space to deliver your unique selling points and flex your creative muscles. This meta descriptions clocks in at 317 characters (1839 pixels):
What This Means for Your Hotel’s SEO Campaign
Doubling the permitted meta description length grants your hotel opportunities to deliver a better user experience, set better content expectations for searchers, and create a better search experience for potential guests. You may even see changes in your on-page behavior metrics, including increased conversion rates and improved bounce rates. By taking advantage of Google’s new snippet length, your hotel will have the opportunity to:
- Speak more semantically in the SERPs
- Provide stronger value propositions for potential guests
- Incorporate more branded language in organic search
- Increase click through rates
- Improve bounce rates
- Increase conversion rates
Stronger Value Propositions
Constrained by a measly 155 character limit, SEOs were previously forced to omit crucial information from meta descriptions. With twice the space to deliver a unique value proposition, you can now tell searchers how your hotel differs from your competition. Highlight your key selling points, include specific details, and tell searchers what makes your hotel special. By conveying your story more completely, your website will stand out in the increasingly competitive SERPs and will be better positioned to earn qualified clicks.
Do you operate a haunted boutique hotel that partners with the city’s best brewery to stock each room with fresh cans? Your competitors probably don’t (unless you’re living in some amazing city that I need to visit). Use those extra pixels to tell your unique story.
More Personality and Branded Language
Your amenities are not the only unique aspects of your hotel. Your property’s personality and voice make guests feel welcome and foster lasting relationships. Use your expanded meta description to better convey that voice and create a sense of authenticity. Where natural, include the quirky taglines that define your hotel’s identity. By creating a personal connection with searchers in the SERPs, you can more effectively drive traffic from your ideal target guests.
Opportunities to Write More Semantically
With twice as much latitude to speak to the searcher, incorporate keywords, deliver a unique value proposition, and present a convincing call to action, writing meta descriptions just got a lot easier. Too often did I see (or write) slightly awkward meta descriptions with way too many ampersands just to conform with Google’s 920 pixel limit. With up to 320 characters, you can speak more naturally and intuitively. Even if you don’t take advantage of the full 1840 pixel limit (and not all pages require that much copy in the meta description), you’ll have more room to breathe and write semantically.
I, for one, am excited to see fewer ampersands and fewer grammatical faux pas. Longer meta description will lead to better grammar, which means less of this:
Does this hotelier even know this participial phrase does not refer to the subject? Woof.
Changes to Click-Through-Rate
Taking advantage of Google’s expanded snippet length is going affect your CTR, and different types of pages will see different effects. With convincing, informative, expanded meta descriptions, your consideration and action pages should see higher click through rates. With more flexibility to convince the user to click, your snippet will better convince the searcher to visit your hotel’s website.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, your informational pages might see lower CTRs, and that’s okay. This lower click through rate suggests you have satisfied the searcher’s intent without visiting your site. For example, if a guest just wants to know your hotel’s phone number (and that number appears in your meta description), the searcher has no need to land on your contact page. The page might see fewer clicks, but you will be providing a better user experience. Plus, your bounce rate will improve when you minimize the number of grab-and-go sessions to your site.
This contact page’s 243 character meta description provides everything you need to get in touch with the Vallejo Hotel. It may not get as many clicks, but it certainly satisfies the searcher’s intent.
Improved Behavior Metrics
Since your meta descriptions can now include more amenity information, brand personality, and hotel highlights, searchers will have a much better idea of what to expect when clicking through to your website. These clearer, more realistic expectations will positively affect your behavior metrics and lead to higher conversion rates and lower bounce rates.
For example, if your meta description tells potential guests your hotel is haunted, has a killer beer bar, and welcomes pets, you can better target a highly qualified audience. Travelers afraid of ghosts (or who hate juicy IPAs) that would typically bounce (and certainly not book) will not bother to click through. On the flipside, ghost hunting, schnauzer owning, barrel aged beer fans will definitely click through, explore your site, and check for availability. By using the expanded snippets to target your ideal guest, your website will perform better.
How to Prioritize Your Meta Description Audit
With big plans in the works for 2018, your hotel and its digital marketing team are understandably busy, and taking a strategic approach to optimizing your meta descriptions is paramount. To make the most of your time – and to reap the most benefits from this algorithm update – look to your conversion funnel to prioritize your expanded meta description rollout.
Action Page Snippets
When prioritizing which pages on your site will most benefit from an expanded meta description, start with actions pages with higher bounce rates than your site average. By setting clear, realistic expectations for potential guests, your home, specials, rooms, and other action pages will see more qualified traffic. This increase in qualified traffic will ultimately lead to lower bounce rates and higher conversion rates on your revenue-driving, bottom of funnel pages.
Informational Page Snippets
Optimize your informational page meta descriptions with the grab-and-go information searchers are looking for. Guests that have already booked want simple answers, and your meta description can answer these questions. Efficiently deliver information like your contact information, pet fee, and check-in time to quickly satisfy searcher intent.
Consideration Page Snippets
Next, evaluate your consideration pages. Rewrite your meta descriptions to convey your hotel’s key value proposition for the topic at hand. If you run a pet friendly hotel, use your pet policy page’s expanded snippet to outline your policy, spotlight the cool pet perks you offer, promote your doggy getaway special, or highlight your proximity to amazing dog parks. Potential guests in the consideration stages of travel have very specific travel criteria, and your meta description should target these highly qualified visitors.
Awareness Page Snippets
Finally, identify which awareness pages will benefit from expanded meta descriptions. Use the expanded character limit to provide a more detailed overview of your page’s content. Whether you are revamping a meta description for a weekend itinerary for Chicago’s beer scene or a Logan Square dining guide, you have a great opportunity to expand your hotel’s reach and create first touch points with new guests.
Next Steps for Rolling Out Your Expanded Meta Descriptions
While rolling out new meta descriptions for your hotel website may not be mission-critical, it will definitely help you gain a competitive advantage in the SERPs and in your market. Plus, the longer snippets allow you to write more semantically, which removed a lot of the inherent tedium of composing meta descriptions. Identify which pages will benefit the most from revamped descriptions, allow yourself about five minutes per snippet, and set your website up for lower bounce rates and higher conversion rates.
To check your meta description lengths, I recommend ToTheWeb’s snippet tool. It features a handy width pixel counter and great SERP snippet previews. Prefer to pawn the heavy lifting off on someone else? We don’t blame you. Get in touch with Blue Magnet’s SEO experts, and we will help your hotel maintain a competitive edge in the always-changing landscape of organic search.