In May 2018 Google confirmed that they would be shortening the length of the meta description (after previously increasing the length in December 2017 ). The length was shortened from 300 to 152 characters. Google simultaneously mentioned that they would no longer set a maximum length for the meta description. The length would henceforth vary depending on what Google would consider useful to the reader. You can read more about this change at Search Engine Land.
When we originally launched this post, we believed that the change implemented in the autumn of 2017 (where we recommended about 300 characters) was here to stay, as several months had passed since the announcement. But, as usual, Google can be capricious and as Google is continually changing, we recommended waiting for at least 6 more months to make sure that said change – a meta description with a maximum of about 160 characters – would be here to stay a while.
For those of you who consider it important to always keep your main pages up to date, we recommend limiting your meta description to 125-152 characters.
We at Adveriser have written the following explanation and description of meta descriptions. In it, you can find out why we recommend that you keep your texts slightly below the maximum number of characters.
General information about meta descriptions, with examples from the changes implemented in the autumn of 2017 (300 characters)
- Since the autumn of 2017, the recommended length of the meta description was a maximum of about 300 characters (desktop).
- A meta description with 300 characters was initially thought to have a significantly higher Click Through Ratio (CTR) than the previously recommended 160 characters. Compare it to a newspaper ad: you pay a lot more for a big ad than for a small one, and actually getting a click on your ad once you rank is the most essential part of SEO work.
The recommendation was that you rewrite the meta description for your main pages as soon as possible. If you did not do so, you could get a worse CTR than otherwise, and you would also risk that Google picked some other “random” text snippet from the website, with significantly worse results. In other words, by not rewriting your meta description you could expect a worse result from your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) work, because your competitors who did perform the update would be getting a larger “advertising space” than you.
More information about meta descriptions and SEO
- For webpages we recommended a maximum of 275-300 characters.
- For blog posts we recommended 260-285 characters (including the date).
Note that on cellphones the text would unfortunately be cropped at slightly above 200 characters.
Users of the Yoast plugin in WordPress would additionally have to pay attention to the fact that this plugin allowed up to 320 characters before becoming red. We considered this to be too much – if you followed that guideline, you would run a greater risk of having your text cropped. Generally, you would need about 3 rows of text to reach 275 characters, plus an additional one third of a row (about 4-5 more words) to reach 300 characters. This was provided you had a normal-sized screen – if you did not have full width, there would be more rows and you’d have to check the character count.
In summary, we recommended that all webpages that already ranked highly – and of course also the pages that you wanted to rank with – should have a longer meta description.
In the images below you will find examples from the blog RikaTillsammans. The meta descriptions were taken from the desktop version. The yellow highlight marks where the text would be cropped on a smartphone, and the red highlight shows where it would became too long even for a desktop screen. and in that case the text for on mobile screen would become even shorter.
Example 1: A meta description that provided good SEO and worked on a computer screen, but not on a phone screen.
“Det går att tjäna pengar och bli rik, men det går inte snabbt. Det är enkelt, men inte lätt att spara pengar. Till skillnad från andra hemsidor om att bli rik, är våra tips annorlunda, beprövade och fungerande. Bl.a. handlar det om 3 olika sätt att tjäna pengar.“
=> 262 characters long: worked on a computer screen (see below), but not on a phone.
Example 2: A meta description that unfortunately was too long for both devices.
“I den här kategorin samlar jag alla mina artiklar som rör hur man kan investera, tjäna pengar och bli rik på fastigheter. Även om fördelarna med att köpa fastighet är många finns det några nackdelar. Den största nackdelen är att insteget i form av att beloppet som behövs till handpenning ofta är stort. Den här kategorin samlar … “
=> 337 characters long including “…” at the end. The recommendation was to avoid exceeding 300 characters. In the image below you can see what a meta description that was too long would look like on the computer screen.
The length of a meta description is measured in pixels
People often talk about the upper character limit for meta descriptions. This allows for the creation of a fairly simple rule to follow, but what Google actually measures is the number of pixels in width that each character takes up, and not the actual number of characters. The example below showcases how 2 different characters repeated 10 times each add up to quite a difference in width:
“OOOOOOOOOO” (140 pixels long, 10 characters)
“IIIIIIIIII” (50 pixels long, 10 characters). That’s 36%, or about a third of the length of the above example. Therefore, it is not possible to specify an exact number of characters to include in a meta description. This is why you should aim for a safety margin when deciding on the length of your meta description.
You can measure pixel width here:
Unfortunately, pixels do not always reflect the whole truth. For example, if a row is used all the way out, or when there is a blank space just before a long word. Even in these cases it is better to write a shorter text than to risk your meta description being cropped. This is one of the reasons why our specified dimensions are different than for the pixel meter, but it’s also because the latter has not been updated.
Our recommendation in early 2018:
Description for a webpage: a length of max 1695 pixels.
Description for a blog with date: a length of max 1610 pixels.
Our recommendation in 2021
Title: a length of max 521 pixels, 58 characters.
Description for a webpage: a length of max 923 pixels, 152 characters.
Description for a blog with date: a length of max 835 pixels, 137 characters