What You Need to Know About Google’s Latest Changes to Meta Descriptions Length


How long should your meta descriptions be?

That’s the million-dollar question webmasters everywhere are asking.

It’s an understandable question. Google is continuing to tinker with meta descriptions throughout 2018.

The issue is the greatest—Amount of characters allowed to describe the contents of a web page.

But what is a meta description? And what is the ideal meta description length?

Today, we’re covering the meta description and everything you need to know to ensure your site is set up to receive maximum clicks on Google and other search engines.

What Is the Meta Description Tag?

You see links to websites related to your search query when you look at Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs).

Beneath each site link is a description of the page you are about to visit. That description comes from these options:

  1. Google displays random snippets from a page. These can appear disjointed and nonsensical.
  2. Google pulls a short paragraph from the section of an HTML page. It is usually written by someone connected with the site. Its purpose is to inform readers what a page is about while enticing them to click through.
  3. Google mixes the meta description with random snippets parsed by the Google bot.

What determines what type of site description Google displays in their SERPs? No one knows, and, unfortunately, Google’s not telling.

New Meta Description Length

If you’ve followed search engine optimization (SEO) for a a long time, you know Google is very secretive about its algorithm and sprovides few details about its ranking criteria.

Luckily, SEO experts track the SERPs daily and write about the changes they notice.

A few months back in May, the consensus opinion of SEO experts was that Google changed the number of maximum characters allowed for a meta description from 160 to 320.

Web admins everywhere rejoiced as the change would make crafting the perfect meta descriptions easier.

But alas, the change was short-lived.

In August, Google issued a broad update that changed many variables in their algorithm. One of those changes is the return of the shorter meta description, with a maximum length of 150 characters.

SEO professionals track the changes, and most agree there isn’t a specific character limit.

For informational search queries, many descriptions of up to 320 characters still reside in the SERPs.

For other queries, 150 seems to be the maximum description length allowed.

The average meta description length in Google US currently stands at 163.88.

Should You Write Meta Descriptions?

Writing compelling meta descriptions falls under “SEO best practices” for anyone who wants to improve their search engine rankings.

A solid description that accurately describes what your page is about has the best chance of Google not simply supplying its description with random snippets from your page.

It can be the difference between your site being clicked on or not.

When searchers click through to your site, it indicates to Google that your site is relevant. Google rewards relevant content by moving it up in the rankings.

How Long Should Your Meta Descriptions Be?

Unless we get clarification from Google about the exact meta description length allowed, it is best to write descriptions no longer than 150 characters. Any longer, and you risk your description being cut off awkwardly.

Meta Descriptions: Wrapping It Up

Describing a page in 150 characters or less accurately is quite challenging. But the reward of better rankings and more traffic makes the effort well worth it.

Be concise and direct with your descriptions, and include your main keywords early in the description.

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