How Long Should Your Meta Description Be?

How Long Should Your Meta Description Be?

The meta description is a short text located under the site heading in the search results. This is how it looks:

In 2009, Google announced that search robots do not take meta descriptions into account when ranking websites. However, this meta tag is important for SEO because it is the meta description that users read before they decide to click on the site or not. Therefore, the quality meta description increases CTR and improves rating by means of attracting organic traffic. Read more information in the article What Is a CTR.

It is necessary to note that Google does not always display the meta description that you have written. Sometimes, search robots independently choose the parts of the text where keywords are included. That is why it is crucial to not only create a meta description but also optimize it correctly. Otherwise, users will see something like this:

In the article about How to Build a Nice Meta Description, we described in detail what meta descriptions are, what they influence, and how to create an effective text to increase CTR. In this post, we are going to focus on the length of the meta tag.

Google has never provided precise data on how many symbols meta description should have. Besides, the search engine has changed the size of the snippet several times. Read more in the articles What are Rich Snippets? and How to Optimize Featured Snippets. Descriptions that were not concise were cut. We have all met examples like this in the SERP (read more information in the article about What is the SERP in 2020?):

Danny Sullivan, the representative of Google, stated three years ago that the change of meta description length is a dynamic process, and webmasters don’t have to rewrite them every time this happens.

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Nevertheless, every SEO specialist wants important information to be displayed under the site name in its full volume.

So, what should the meta description length be in 2020?

How has the Meta Description Length Changed?

Before getting to the main point, let us understand how the meta description length has been changing in recent years.

2016. The recommended SEO meta description length was between 150-160 symbols with spaces. All the excessive symbols will be cut with an ellipsis. 

2017. According to a Google announcement, meta description length 2017 was increased for search results to be more informative and for users to understand if the displayed links meet their searches. At that moment, the average meta tag length was 230 symbols.

By the end of the year, SEO specialists were pleasantly surprised: the search engine decided to expand the snippet, which influenced the meta description length. It was increased to 320 symbols with spaces. However, a lot of SEOists didn’t want to take the risk. That is why the Google meta description length 2018 was not more than 300 symbols at the beginning of the next year. The main rules of the meta tag creation remained the same.

2018. In May, a Google representative confirmed that snippets had become shorter again. Danny Sullivan told that the visible part of the text became a bit longer than previously. However, webmasters have noticed that the visual part of the new meta description length does not exceed 160 symbols. In fact, the search engine returned to the length it was during 2016.

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2019. The meta description length 2019 has not changed. It was possible to write the text up to 300 symbols but only 160 symbols were displayed. Tails of long meta descriptions were hidden by an ellipsis in search results. This is why SEO specialists tried to include all the important keywords at the beginning of the meta description.

Reduction of the length to 160 symbols with spaces caused the rush of indignation from SEO specialists. A lot of them wrote on Twitter that they wanted precise guidelines from Google on meta tags. However, Danny Sullivan made it clear that the search engine does not want webmasters to be obsessed with numbers; it wants site owners to create quality content and to concisely describe it for users. Google has never concealed that the meta description is generated according to searches. That is why instead of preparing the text in advance, Google displays parts of the text directly from webpages.

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Optimum Meta Description Length in 2020

So, what is the length of meta description in SEO today? 

Since the previous year, nothing has changed. The displayed meta description length varies within the following values:

  • For desktop – 135-175 symbols with spaces.
  • For mobile gadgets – 100-120 symbols with spaces.

SEO specialists usually trace the optimum parameters for desktop search results in the service RankRanger

As before, the actual meta description length can surpass recommended values. However, there is no sense to intentionally increase a text that will be inevitably cut. The search engine can also perceive such descriptions as spam and will negatively impact the rating of the resource. Read more in the article What is SPAM.

The short meta description of 50-60 symbols won’t be beneficial for promotion either. If Google includes it in the snippet, users won’t understand what the site is about and therefore will not click the link. As a result, the CTR value will decrease. This leads to a decrease in the average rating.

In general, while defining the optimum meta tags’ length, it is recommended to rely on the empirical data of RankRanger service and common sense. If your text is a couple of characters longer than 160 symbols, do not waste your time on shortening. Rather take care of other important aspects that should be taken into consideration while writing meta descriptions.

How to Write a Meta Description of High Quality

If you take note of all the recommendations from Google and take into account all the guidelines provided during filling in of the snippet Yoast SEO in WordPress, it is possible to make a list of criteria of an ideal meta description. Read more in the articles Yoast vs All in One SEO Pack and Setting Up SEO Plugins

  • Focus on the content. Make sure that the meta description is unique, does not duplicate the title, corresponds to the information on the page, and contains data that will ensure users to click on the link. These can be the advantages of the company or its product. Read more in detail in the article about Title Tags
  • Do not forget about the length. Yoast SEO helps select the optimum option. If the description is too short (less than 120 symbols) or too long (more than 156 symbols), the bullet corresponding to this parameter will be orange. If everything is fine, it will be green. These rules are applicable to WordPress sites along with many others. Read the on-topic article about WordPress SEO.

Yoast

  • Following the same principle, Yoast SEO helps us understand why the meta description should contain keywords. Place them at the beginning of the text to avoid Google cutting important information. The availability of keywords increases the chance that the meta description will be displayed in the snippet. Do not misuse keywords. Just 1 or 2 will suffice.

The structure of the optimum meta description is the following: 

  • Key phrases should be included in the first 120 symbols of the description. 
  • Triggers or a unique selling proposition should be used. 
  • Mention the target audience or use a call-to-action. It is even possible to indicate phone numbers and other contact details. 

The ideal meta description length is 155-160 symbols with spaces. 

Let us consider several examples of quality meta descriptions.

Tesla

In this example, the length is precisely 160 symbols with spaces, there are keywords, the brand name, and a very concise description of the company activity. Even though there is no specific call-to-action, it is clear who the target audience of this selling proposition is.

Uber

Uber webmasters have managed to squeeze in keywords, range of services the company provides, and a call-to-action in just 129 characters.

These are the two examples of ineffective meta descriptions. 

Radio Cab

Even though the meta description is completely included in the snippet, simply mentioning the cities or keywords is not one of the meta description best practices.

America Car Rental

It is an illustrative example of how Google has taken the information from the site to generate the snippet based on the search. As a result, this is not a description but a list of phrases and fragments.

Useful Meta Description Length Checkers

Before adding meta tags, you can check if they are going to be displayed correctly in the search results. You can do this by using special tools. Fill in all the fields and you will immediately see the results.

To the Web

To the Web

This is a free tool that not only helps to see how the snippet is going to be displayed but also provides brief feedback on every meta tag. If it meets the optimum parameters, it should be modified.

To the Web

Meta Length Checker

Meta Length Checker

This service reminds you that a snippet is like a shop window. It has to be attractive in order to increase CTR.

Meta Length Checker

Counting Characters

Counting Characters

This meta description length tool cuts the description to 155 symbols. We would like to remind you that in the Google SERP, the text of Tesla is displayed completely. However, there is recent information on the page about meta description best practices that will help with the creation of correct meta tags.

To conclude, we would like to underline once again that Google has always preferred authentic quality content. No matter how the snippet size has changed, it does not influence the rules of meta description creation. It still needs to interest users to click on the link. Try not to forget about the meta description character limit.

Author

Eugenia Pasichnyk Eugenia Pasichnyk

Eugenia Pasichnyk is a content creator with 10-years’ experience in the profession. Worked as a Project Manager at a Marketing Agency. Has been studying SEO processes for over 5 years. Interested in PR and other promotion methods.

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