How long should you make your meta description?

Back in 2015, Google snippets had a limit of 150 characters, but then something happened. First off, some snippets seemed to break the limit; then at the end of November of that year, the limit jumped to 230 characters, with some even pushing the 400 mark. Google eventually confirmed that they had changed the rules on meta description limits, all of which begs the question – just how long should they be?

The average

According to most estimates, the average length of a Google snippet these days is 215 characters, which is slightly above the historical trend. However, this doesn’t tell the whole story. The median length is 186, which suggests that there are some big numbers skewing the overall average.

However, the really interesting thing is at which point Google decides to cut off the snippet. Roughly 33% of descriptions feature the … symbolising that some text has been edited out of the snippet. This means that around two thirds are left untouched.

Looking closer at the details, it seems that the longer the snippet, the more chance there is of it being cut off. So once you go over 300 characters, it’s very likely that Google will … your snippet. However, some are cut off at 200, 150 or even less. That tends to happen when there are video snippets or pre-cut metas – that is, ones that use the cut off to their own advantage.

There were some snippets that managed to push through the 325-character bracket without being cut off. An explanation of this is that Google seems to love complete sentences, which means if you’re clever you can fit in more information to your snippet without getting the … treatment. In some cases, Google even rewrites the meta description to make it longer.

But what is all the fuss about? Do meta descriptions even make a difference? Some of the big sites don’t bother with them, so why should you? It’s largely because a good meta is a like an advert. You can use it to sell what you do, drive interest and add clicks. And judging by all the evidence, it seems that pushing for 300 characters and using cleverly constructed sentences is the way to go to maximise your meta potential. Try not to pad them out though, and only include information that is vital and relevant.

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