As of this month, May 2018, we’ve received confirmation from Google that the optimal SEO meta description length has been shortened (likely to their ‘old’ length of 150-170 characters, though this has yet to be confirmed).
Our search snippets are now shorter on average than in recent weeks, though slightly longer than before a change we made last December. There is no fixed length for snippets. Length varies based on what our systems deem to be most useful.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) May 14, 2018
This change comes a few months after Google had implemented changes to increase the SEO meta description length to ~230-320 characters. If you use any SEO plugins on your WordPress website like Yoast or All In One SEO, you might have noticed that the “suggested” meta description length had increased in the past months. If you were in the process of making any large-scale on-page SEO updates to your website(s), you may have to hold off or roll-back your changes as of today.
What Does This Mean?
Your SEO team or marketing agency should always be monitoring your website snippets to optimize its contents for search engines. If your meta descriptions are too short, you’re wasting free real estate. If your meta descriptions are too long, they’ll be abruptly cut off when seen in Google Search results.
The length of snippets is dynamic. We’re not stating a maximum length because of this.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) May 14, 2018
As stated by Danny Sullivan, Google employee, snippet length has never been “confirmed” by Google but the range has always been observed (and easy to test) by SEOs and marketers. We will proactively update this blog post should we observe any major changes in optimal snippet length.
How To Future-Proof Your SEO Efforts
Knowing the optimal range of meta snippets is important in ensuring your website has the best chance of being clicked, on a search engine results page (SERP). However, shifts in snippet length as observed this month can sometimes undermine your efforts.
We didn’t flip-flop on meta descriptions. We said there was no set limit a year ago. That’s still the case. When asked if meta descriptions should be changed when snippets got longer, our advice was there was no need to do anything special. That remains our advice.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) May 23, 2018
When the initial increase in SEO description length was observed around December 2017, Google’s official response was as follows:
“The fact that our snippets have gotten longer doesn’t change the fundamentals of writing a description tag. They should generally inform and interest users with a short, relevant summary of what a particular page is about. We now display slightly longer snippets, which means we might display more of a meta description tag. However, we never had a limit on meta description tag length before, as we covered earlier this year. So, there’s no need for publishers to suddenly expand their meta description tags, if they feel their current ones are adequate. As a reminder, our snippets are dynamically generated.” – via SearchEngineLand
As stated, Google is looking for a “short, relevant summary of what a particular page is about.” We can take that further by adding the following guidelines:
- Keep your core content within 150 characters – It’s unlikely that Google will further shorten their meta description (don’t quote us on this), and it’s also good marketing practice to keep your core content short and succinct. If you’re adding content simply to “fill up the space” – that’s not going to help increase your clickthrough rate as much as keeping a short, snappy call to action.
- Keep your copy actionable and ideally avoid passive tense – Remember, your SEO meta description is like a sales pitch to get a user to click on your site over the other results on the page. Instead of using the space as a mere descriptor for the page, take the opportunity to think of why someone would want to click on the link to your site – and address that need within your copy. Learn More, Try It Free, Download Now are some examples of actionable copy you could use.
- Add Structured Content where possible – This goes deeper into professional SEO territory, but Google SERP will sometimes show structured content (also known as “rich snippets” to dynamically show dates, reviews, product information and other dynamic content along with a search result. It will look something like this:
- Keep your copy relevant and unique – This is an “eternal” tip that’s almost a no-brainer for most marketers. Keep your page description useful and relevant to that pages’ actual contents. Keep mentions of your focus keyword tasteful, non-intrusive and unique from other pages on your site.
By keeping your SEO meta content relevant and up-to-date, you’ll maximize your chances of being clicked on by potential customers browsing on Google. It’s great to keep the optimal snippet length in mind to maximize the space you get to work with – but it’s far more important to ensure that the content of your SERP real estate is used properly first and foremost.
Do You Want To Maximize Your Online Visibility?
Search Engine Optimization is an ever-changing field, and the only way to truly stay on top of your online visibility and reach is to keep up-to-date on recent SEO happenings and events, actions from competitors, and progress within your own keyword rankings. It is for this reason that our clients rely on us to keep them up-to-date on all marketing happenings, from SEO changes to internet policy changes like the GDPR.
We hope you found this SEO article useful! Learn more about search engine optimization or contact our marketing agency if you have any questions about the SEO tips above. If you’re looking for an SEO agency to help you get a leg up on your competition, give us a shout! We always have chocolate 🙂