Meta Description Changes: Should You Up Your Character Count?
At the backend of last year Google confirmed that they had updated the length of snippets in their search results.
“We recently made a change to provide more descriptive and useful snippets, to help people better understand how pages are relevant to their searches. This resulted in snippets becoming slightly longer, on average.”
While Google wasn’t specific as to the extent of the increase, Rank Ranger found that the average meta-description length had risen from an average of 160 characters in November 2017 to 230 characters the following month.
Google have advised that you don’t need to increase the length of meta-descriptions, as snippets are often populated using information from the page. However, in a recent Webmaster Hangout, John Mueller advised that there are reasons why it might benefit you to take advantage of the longer descriptions:
“[Meta-descriptions are] not a ranking factor. It can affect how your site is visible in the search results. So with that I definitely see it as something legitimate where you might say well I want to make sure that my kind of proposition is out there in full and therefore I’ll try to write something a bit longer and show that in my meta description.”
Taking John’s advice into consideration, it may be worth reviewing existing meta-descriptions and viewing them in the context of a search results page to understand if it is worth modifying meta-descriptions to make the most of the increased capacity.
If you find that Google isn’t using the meta descriptions you’ve provided and is instead pulling out other information from the page for popular search queries, then it probably isn’t worth updating them.
How have we updated our crawler?
At DeepCrawl we have decided to respond to this change in snippet length by updating our default values in our Max Description Length report to 230 characters to reflect this increase. This change has been rolled out to all new projects and existing projects.
Additionally, you may want to make use of our custom meta description length setting in the project settings. While we have chosen 230 characters as a safe limit which will very likely displayed in full in desktop search, descriptions can be as long as 320 characters.
Due to the variability in description length, we provide you with the flexibility to choose what limits you want to benchmark your descriptions against. If you have already taken advantage of our custom meta description limits, these won’t have been changed as part of our update.
On top of this, we have also added a Max Mobile Description Length report, with a default character limit of 200 characters, to ensure descriptions are fully displayed in search engine results pages on mobile devices.
We believe the updated values in our reports will better help give you a more accurate limit for both desktop and mobile searches.
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