Meta description is one of the most important ranking factors in SEO. But what about meta description length? What’s the ideal character count of your meta description? And why shouldn’t you worry about meta description length that much actually?
In this article I try to give you the correct answer for your meta description’s length. But let me tell you, SEO nowadays is less about technical settings (e.g. character count) than understanding the whole picture.
Technical Meta Description Length
From a really technical point of view, there are 3 numbers you should know about meta description length:
- 156 is the new safe character limit where Google won’t truncate your meta description in the SERP’s.
- If the publishing date is displayed for your article in search results (that’s the case usually with WordPress blog posts), 144 characters is the safe limit.
- If you’re meta description character count is below 100, you’ll either have a one line description in the SERP, or Google will append some text from your article. Both might lead to weaker visitor interaction (i.e. lower CTR).
Meta description length UPDATE #1: Maximum length of displayed meta description used to be 156 characters for years with some experiments from Google, but as of December 2017, Google started displaying 320 characters in SERPs.
Meta description length UPDATE #2: As of May 2018, Google reinstated the original meta description length, see above. If you want to play it safe, just adhere to the 156 characters limit in the future.
Why Meta Description Character Count Isn’t That Important
First of all, doing SEO from a strictly technical point of view isn’t that lucrative anymore. Search engines have jut become much more sophisticated than a mere character count would really impact anything. So in general, I don’t recommend you focusing on technical details so much, should you really want to get loads of visitors from search engines instead of tilting at windmills.
But there are a few more practical reasons not to worry too much about meta description length. Let me explain these to you. And I think the 4th one is the most surprising yet most important reason.
- Search Engines will understand your meta description even if its longer than 320 characters. Log in to your Google Search Console dashboard, and check Search Appearance » HTML Improvements. There you’ll see a list of Long meta descriptions, if any. Just make those descriptions shorter, and don’t worry about the others.
- Google has been experimenting with displaying longer meta descriptions for years now. This means that the length of your meta description is not that important anymore.
- Google will easily overwrite your meta description anyways, if it thinks it’s not descriptive or relevant enough. So length, again, isn’t as important as relevance.
- And the most surprising reason why you shouldn’t worry about meta description length is that an ellipsis may be a CTR boosting signal, working like a real click to action element. That’s right. If your meta description is too long, Google will truncate it, leaving an ellipsis (…) at the end. And the most important SEO benefit of meta description is to motivate people to click on it. Don’t you think ending a sentence abruptly in the middle, with three dots, would be an effective way in doing that…?
How I Set Up Meta Description Length
For me the most important aspect of SEO (and life as well) is control. In relation to meta description, this means that I want to see my description in the SERPs and not something auto-generated by Google.
That’s why my meta description is never shorter than 100-110 characters. This is the most important point to make. If you leave it shorter, Google will almost always add some auto-generated text, meaning you loose some of your control.
On the other hand, sometimes just feels right to write more than 320 characters, and let Google truncate it with an ellipsis, having more people click on it …