So what’s new about Google’s search results? ‘Google Search on desktop looks a little different today,’ announced Google's Jon Wiley on his blog on March 12, 2014
‘We've increased the size of result titles, removed the underlines, and evened out all the line heights. This improves readability and creates an overall cleaner look. We've also brought over our new ad labels from mobile, making the multi-device experience more consistent.'
What do these changes mean for copywriters?
While these changes do not affect the actual content itself or ranking, they do affect how your site appears in the search results page:
There's now a lower character limit for page titles. It looks like Google is restricting page title length by the physical/pixel width of the space rather than a character count.
For example, in the search pictured for ‘Ladybird book’, the page title fits nicely in the old version:
But in the new style you get something truncated, with potentially a key piece of information missing (BBC.com):
You can see how this might affect your carefully worked titles. You'll have to make sure your page titles are shorter, snappier and well-written to attract your audience – particularly as there's now also no underlining to draw the eye to the link.
To be on the safe side, we would advise that you keep your page titles to 50 characters as a rule of thumb. This means that even if you've spent time before carefully crafting your page titles so that they aren't truncated on the results page, you'll now need to go back and check them all again.
While the spacing around meta descriptions has changed, with more white space between the lines, the character count has remained similar – so make sure your meta-descriptions are under 155 characters.
If you've got international sites there’s an extra challenge, especially for languages like German. See Twitter user @InstantAtlas's comparison of the same search result with the page title in English, Italian and German.
What of the future?
Google seems to be increasingly focusing on mobile devices – and this implementation is all about bringing the desktop experience more in line with mobile. So designing and writing for mobile and responsive/adaptive formats should be at the top of your agenda if it isn't already.
What also seems certain is that these changes are unlikely to go away.
True, the changes were met with complaints from some seo experts and marketers, who missed the underlining or found the spacing harder to read. But others liked the additional white space, and anyway Google has been testing the new layouts over a few months with millions of users. So the grumbles of a few, however vociferous, are unlikely to sway the implementation.