The ideal length of a meta description

In the Yoast SEO plugin, we provide you with feedback about the length of your meta description. In this article, we’ll give you some information about meta descriptions in general, and about the ideal length of a meta description. Let’s dive in!

What is a meta description?

Before we go into detail about the length of a meta description, let’s first explore what a meta description is. If you search for something in a search engine, the search engine will provide you with a list of search results. These search results usually consist of three elements:

  • a title (in blue)
  • a URL (in green)
  • a meta description (in black)

The meta description is basically a description of what the page is about, shown in the search results.

Three elements of a search result

Why are meta descriptions important?

Meta descriptions are important for two reasons:

  1. for increasing your click-through rate;
  2. for increasing your ranking in Google.

If your search result stands out from the other search results, you’ll have a higher chance that people will click on your result. That will lead to more traffic. As more people click on your result, Google will notice that people prefer your page above the other ones. So, in the long run, a good meta description could improve your ranking.

The ideal length of a meta description

A meta description can be up to 155 characters – and sometimes even more. However, there is no ‘right number’ of characters here because your description may be cut short depending on what Google adds to your search result. Google may, for instance, add the date to an article, which reduces the number of characters. Sometimes, Google makes up the text for a snippet, therefore overriding your meta description.

Also, Google changes the maximum length of a meta description every now and then. A while ago, Google showed search results with long meta descriptions (around 320 characters). After a few months, they changed it back to short meta descriptions again. So, keep an eye on the news about Google. Make sure to check out our blog, we’ll keep you posted on every important change.

Learn more about this check in Yoast SEO in our explanation of the meta description length assessment.

How to improve your meta description

If you get an orange or red bullet for the length of your meta description in the Yoast SEO plugin, your meta description might be too short or too long. It might even be missing. We’ll give you a few basic tips on how to improve your meta description.

  1. Always write a meta description
    We can’t stress this enough: don’t forget to write a meta description! Your meta description is the invitation to your page. Make sure people feel invited to click your link.
  2. Make sure to use the space
    Your meta description can be up to 155 characters, so use the space to convince people to click your link. Keep in mind that your description may be cut short when Google decides to add a date, for example. Or Google itself picks a text to show in the results. So, check what your meta description looks like in the search results every now and then.
  3. Make it actionable
    Try to convince people. Write in an active voice, and include a clear call-to-action. Write something like this: ‘Hello, we have such and such new product, and you want it. Find out more!’ Invitations like Learn more, Get it now, and Try for free come in handy here.
  4. Make sure it matches the content of the page
    Google will find out meta descriptions that try to trick the visitor into clicking and might even penalize the site that do this. But apart from that, misleading descriptions will probably increase bounce rate and is a bad idea for that reason alone. You want the meta description to match the content on the page.
  5. Make sure it is unique
    If your meta description is the same as those on other pages, the user experience in Google will be hampered. Although page titles might vary, all pages will appear to be the same because all the descriptions are the same. So, make sure to write a unique meta description for every page of your site.