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.
At 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?
Read on as today we’re covering the meta description and everything you need to know to make sure your site is set up to receive maximum clicks on Google and other search engines.
What Is the Meta Description Tag?
When you look at Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs), you see links to websites that are related to your search query.
Beneath each site link is a description describing the page you are about to visit. That description comes from these options:
- Google displays random snippets from a page. These can appear disjointed and nonsensical.
- Google pulls a short paragraph from thesection 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.
- 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 very long, you know Google is very secretive about their algorithm and provide few details about their ranking criteria.
Luckily for us, 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.
Webmaster’s everywhere rejoiced as the change would make it easier to craft the perfect meta descriptions.
But alas, the change was short lived.
In August, Google issued a broad update which changed many variables to their algorithm. One of those changes is the return of the shorter meta description, with a maximum length of 150 characters.
SEO professionals are tracking the changes and most agree there isn’t a specific character limit.
For informational search queries, many descriptions up to 320 characters still reside in the SERPs.
For others 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 effective 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 that Google won’t simply supply their own 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’s an indication to Google 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
It’s quite the challenge to write an accurate description of a page in 150 characters or less. 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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