In December we wrote about Google supporting meta descriptions up to 320 characters.
In May they started making changes to the length of the meta description again. It seems as if Google went back to showing a maximum of 155 characters, their pre-December length, but that’s not the case.
Google was also experimenting with the meta description lengths for weeks, trying different things before finally settling on their new standard. And even now, the meta description length is constantly changing.
Where other blogs and tools were quick to jump to conclusions and recommend a new length, we first wanted to see where Google was taking this before advising you about a new meta description length.
In this article we’ll explain what changed exactly, and how you should respond to it.
A lot of people don’t know that Google can still show longer meta descriptions (up to 320 characters) for informational queries. Informational queries are queries where people are looking for very specific information. Often, these queries benefit from a longer meta description.
An examples of such a query “what's the difference between audi a5 and s5”:
Now you’re wondering, what action should I take? Should I again change all my meta descriptions? And even if I do that, what length should I stick to?
We recommend to do the following:
Keep in mind that Google may still choose to show a snippet from your body content as the meta description of the page in the SERP.
One of the benefits of using ContentKing is that you’ll be able to pull up every meta description you’ve ever defined for every page we’re monitoring for you. When changing the meta descriptions again, this comes in very handy.
We’ve changed the minimum and maximum length we test for in ContentKing back to 70 - 155 characters (430 - 920 px). This may impact your health score in ContentKing, so don’t be surprised to see some fluctuations.
Furthermore, we’re working on a feature which enables you to configure the minimum and maximum meta description limits yourself.
Why we think you need this flexibility?
For starters Google US, Google UK and Google NL are all showing different average meta description lengths. We’ve got customer all over the globe, so it makes sense to make the limits configurable. Furthermore, if your website’s ranking for a lot of information queries then you may want to increase the limit.
The average meta description length for Google US is 163.88 characters:
The average meta description length for Google UK is 159.00 characters:
The average meta description length for Google NL is 146.69 characters:
Source: RankRanker’s SERP features tool.
Also, we shouldn’t forget about mobile. The mobile-first index is being rolled out as we speak, and mobile searches continue to increase. Mobile is definitely something to keep in mind when dealing with meta descriptions. If you’re getting a lot of mobile traffic, then we recommend writing shorter meta descriptions. In that case, we recommend sticking to the following meta description length: 60 - 120 characters (350 - 700 px).
Our recommendations there haven’t changed.
For Bing and DuckDuckGo it’s still 70-155 characters and for Yahoo 70-150 characters.
If you want to read up on the meta description, check out our ultimate guide here.