Meta descriptions are going to be shorter again

Your meta descriptions need to be shorter. I know, just a few months ago, we told you that your meta descriptions could be longer. Now we’re saying that they should be shorter. I understand the confusion. But Google changed its mind. And whenever Google changes its mind about something, we need to adjust accordingly. It’s almost like if Google says jump; we reply with ‘how high?’. But, for better or worse, that’s the way this SEO game works. Here, I’ll explain what Google has changed concerning the meta descriptions and what the consequences will be.

What has changed?

While Google showed snippets with long meta descriptions (around 320 characters) in the past few months, the snippets are now back to their old length (between 150 and 170 characters). A few weeks ago, we published the results of our research in which we experimented with long and short meta descriptions on Yoast.com. All of the long meta descriptions we added to articles on Yoast.com, that were visible in the search results pages earlier, are now all replaced by short ones.

Google’s Danny Sullivan confirmed that Google, in fact, has changed the meta descriptions.

However, he does not say how long the new meta descriptions will be. He says that the length will be shorter, but variable. Research of Moz shows that most meta descriptions are about the same length as they were before Google decided to increase the number of available characters.

What should you do?

 Don’t panic. If you’ve made your meta descriptions longer than 155 characters, I’d advise to make them shorter though. At least for your most important articles. In most cases, Google will not show the long descriptions anymore and you don’t want Google to cut off your meta descriptions in the middle of a sentence. So you’d want to rewrite these meta descriptions, making them fit Google’s new rule. If you decide to rewrite them, always keep in mind that it’s best to start with the most important information first. That way, if the length changes again, you’re pretty sure that that part won’t be cut off.

What about Yoast SEO?

If you go to the snippet editor in the Yoast SEO plugin now, you’ll see the old meta description length. By ‘old’ we mean the ‘new’ one – about 320 characters – which is outdated already. So we’ll change the meta description length. Again. It has now gone back to what it was: about 155 characters. Now, hopefully, it’ll stay the same (at least for a while).

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110 Responses to Meta descriptions are going to be shorter again

  1. Alessandro
    Alessandro  • 6 months ago

    Sensacional Artigo!

  2. Jazib
    Jazib  • 6 months ago

    This is not a good step as i think in 320, you can have greater explanation of your business. Well we have to follow so will need to change things again.

  3. Hossein
    Hossein  • 6 months ago

    Hi,
    Let me share my experience with you.
    I’ve reached to this conclusion that it’s better to put the meta description field empty.
    Because I think Google itself fills it with much better descriptions from the post including the keywords that users search.
    For example a website like wikipedia has no meta description for its articles. whenever we search something, all the keywords show up in the meta description of wikipedia articles and all in all google shows a better description to users.

    • Kyle K
      Kyle K  • 6 months ago

      I agree 100%. I also don’t believe it is necessary to go back and shorten the descriptions you may have already changed for the 320 character limit. Google most of the time takes their own snippet for the description from the on-page content. Therefore, Google will populate what they deem as the most important based on searcher intent. Going back and optimizing descriptions which we know don’t factor much into rankings seems like a time suck and take focus away from other areas we can spend optimizing. If this was titles, it may be a different story.

  4. Julia keith
    Julia keith  • 6 months ago

    Thanks for sharing this great news with us. Now we also have to change our snippets length.

  5. CBD Oil
    CBD Oil  • 6 months ago

    What a pain in the rear! At least for those who started to take advantage of the longer description. I didn’t think it would last long if things were leaning towards mobile optimization, and too much text is just that…too much. Glad we did not begin that extending of the descriptions! Back to normal.

  6. Saqib Irfan
    Saqib Irfan  • 6 months ago

    Oh boy, here we go again!
    I am glad I check Yoast blog to stay in the know.
    This will certainly help. Thanks for posting and sharing the SEO knowledge.

  7. Matt Ventura
    Matt Ventura  • 6 months ago

    Thanks for sharing this article with us! As we are about halfway through 2018 and meta descriptions are shortening what would you recommend as a strategy for dealing with multiple long tail key words for ranking purposes?

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 6 months ago

      Hi Matt, just pick the most used long tail keyword and use that one in your meta description. Otherwise you’ll end up with unreadable text!

  8. Rob
    Rob  • 6 months ago

    I’d appreciate more clarification as to why you’re reducing the description length please. To quote Danny O’sullivan “Our search snippets are now shorter on average than in recent weeks, though slightly longer than before a change we made last December. There is no fixed length for snippets. Length varies based on what our systems deem to be most useful.” Having researched this over the last few days, the length of snippet does vary and often the top organic listing shows approx 300 characters. Some of the 300 char tags we’ve uploaded are displaying. Wouldn’t it be better to allow for longer tags to be created and perhaps show a warning colour when over 160 chars? This would appear to be more flexible, bearing in mind that google DOES display 300 char tags in certain circumstances.

    • Edwin Toonen
      Edwin Toonen  • 6 months ago

      Hi Rob. You are right, there are still some variations to be seen. In the next release of Yoast SEO, we’ll adjust the snippet length but the progress bar won’t turn red anymore. Orange will mean it’s on the short side or over 155 characters, while green means that it has a nice length. This way, we can keep it a little more flexible.

  9. MitraDriver
    MitraDriver  • 6 months ago

    When it changed to long meta, I worked to change almost all my post. Then, now it change again. It sometimes a bit confusing for a beginner like me

  10. Criss
    Criss  • 7 months ago

    Great, thank you for the information. I was searching around hoping that these will not be truth as i discover my meta description was cut off. But, I guess we just have to obey Google and made the changes for it again. All of our efforts to update to make use of the longer meta descriptions have gone down the drain. Argggg…

  11. Long Phi
    Long Phi  • 7 months ago

    Thank you Marieke for your useful article. I can’t wait to update the new Yoast version 7.6 released :). This is what i hope from Google for months since update of Yoast 6 few months ago (i got accquainted with shorter description i really like that). Finally we’re back again. Oh yeah!

  12. Prince Kaybee
    Prince Kaybee  • 7 months ago

    Google and their every month updates. Thanks for this article

  13. Disha Desai
    Disha Desai  • 7 months ago

    Thanks for sharing the information with us, was very useful. Will help in future while working on meta-description. Thanks once again.

  14. Manthan Bhavsar
    Manthan Bhavsar  • 7 months ago

    I take a look at your blog it’s really great…! Thanks for sharing such a valuable information with us. I hope your information will be helpful for SEO lovers.

  15. Chase
    Chase  • 7 months ago

    Will you be changing Yoast SEO to reflect this change as it currently still accepts long meta descriptions. I am working on a site at present and have the ability to add long meta descriptions up to 300 characters and it still shows green. I would prefer to be able to see when it goes over the “Google” preferred length.

    • awaywithkatie
      awaywithkatie  • 6 months ago

      Did you read the full article? It states at the bottom that the next Yoast plugin update will reflect the change in meta description length – expected in two weeks from the time this was published.

      • Saqib Irfan
        Saqib Irfan  • 6 months ago

        Thanks for pointing out!

  16. S Roy
    S Roy  • 7 months ago

    Thanks for sharing beauty with us. I hope you will share some more info. Please keep sharing!

  17. sanjeet sahoo
    sanjeet sahoo  • 7 months ago

    i really like these websites

  18. TCALoans
    TCALoans  • 7 months ago

    In the weekly newsletter, the title used for this article is “Meta descriptions are going to be longer again >”.
    Can you please decide what will it be or at least let us know if it was an unintentional mistake?

    • Iris Guelen
      Iris Guelen  • 7 months ago

      Oops, something must have gone wrong there! It should have said: “Meta descriptions are going to be shorter again”. Our sincerest apologies!

  19. Jason King
    Jason King  • 7 months ago

    We have a lot of posts since the increased meta length – all of them have been written longer. If we leave them – will this adversely effect SEO? Or should we spend a day going back and editing them? I understand having it cut off might be annoying or not aesthetically pleasing but will it hold negative effects if we do not shorten them bacK?

  20. Emmanuel
    Emmanuel  • 7 months ago

    The 155 characters is okay, may be Google experiment with above 155 characters and found out it makes the search engine clustered as I observed too. It also gives room for Google users to find different sites with same searched keyword to choose from easily.

  21. Anil Sahu
    Anil Sahu  • 7 months ago

    Useful information.

  22. H Phomrong
    H Phomrong  • 7 months ago

    Thanks for this useful information on Meta Description. Though the focus made here may specify Yoast plugin, I hope meta description points to every website owner – I am using AIOSEO – and believe that Am on board with Meta Description.

    Kindly keep adding more such articles.
    Cheers!

  23. Marcia Imperator
    Marcia Imperator  • 7 months ago

    Wow,,, All the work to increase the descriptions at the beginning of the year does not work anymore hahahah

  24. انجام پروژه آباکوس
    انجام پروژه آباکوس  • 7 months ago

    Sad News! Because We put a large amount of effort for expanding meta description length on our website

  25. Sergio Guillén
    Sergio Guillén  • 7 months ago

    Happy to see this. We were planning to lengthen our meta descriptons next month, but now it won’t be necessary. Sometimes it pays off to be a bit behind schedule :)

  26. Antony
    Antony  • 7 months ago

    Thanks for sharing, please continue to keep us updated.

  27. Yvonne Finn
    Yvonne Finn  • 7 months ago

    Marieke, thanks to you and Yoast for always doing such a wonderful job of informing and explaining these changes that affect our websites/blogs.
    I for one do not mind these adjustments as they “keep us on our toes” in tightening our page/post description…kind of Twitteresque which I have come to like:)

  28. Sunil Tiwary
    Sunil Tiwary  • 7 months ago

    I actually liked shorter version. Good to know they are cutting off the length

  29. Sachin
    Sachin  • 7 months ago

    thanks! for informing us.

  30. hophop
    hophop  • 7 months ago

    Slaves to Google

    • Iris Guelen
      Iris Guelen  • 7 months ago

      It’s definitely a hassle for everyone involved… We do believe that your human audience should always come first, not Google. You can read more on our thoughts here: https://yoast.com/stop-pleasing-google/ Hope that clears up things a little! :)

  31. Nikita Sharma
    Nikita Sharma  • 7 months ago

    If Google finds any information more relevant to search query then it may sometimes show longer meta descriptions in results.

  32. toms
    toms  • 7 months ago

    good!

  33. Học Luật Online
    Học Luật Online  • 7 months ago

    I have noticed this change from the search engine google is from 2 weeks ago. I see the description for the article displayed on the shortened search results. And now, there are official results from Yoast ..

  34. Wazifa
    Wazifa  • 7 months ago

    And what about number of H1’s in a page ? How many H1’s should we add in a post ? Only title is enough or we should use multiple ?

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 7 months ago

      Hi Wazifa, we’d advise to use an H1 for the title and use H2 and H3 for headings in the text.

      • AdmssionBlock
        AdmssionBlock  • 7 months ago

        Can you tell about the importance of Title Tag?

      • Wazifa
        Wazifa  • 7 months ago

        Thanks

        • Wazifa
          Wazifa  • 7 months ago

          And is it necessary to display tags on the site ? If I add many tags will it effect the rankings negatively ?

  35. Charlotte
    Charlotte  • 7 months ago

    I just tried it out: google takes the words I searched for from my meta description and cuts only off, what is not so important. So I see no need to make my meta descriptions shorter.

    • Joe J.
      Joe J.  • 7 months ago

      We’ve noticed with our site too. Google has been taking snippets from various parts of the article and putting automatically putting together a meta description. Seems like it can change from time to time too.

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 7 months ago

      Great, then you should be good.

  36. Ahmed
    Ahmed  • 7 months ago

    So can we manually cut/ short the sentences or else will it automatically cut the words to 155 characters.

  37. Cole Butler
    Cole Butler  • 7 months ago

    Thanks for the information! I just know this update, thanks that I dropped to your site. But what will happen to the recent post I have? Please advice me. Thanks

  38. Eve Jones
    Eve Jones  • 7 months ago

    Hey Marieke, I found this topic in chatter on some forums a few days ago and yes, Google has trimmed down meta description length again. I am glad I didn’t modify my previous descriptions to a longer one. Still, it is strange that bots are going to display whatever it finds as a best relevant match. Thanks for this informative blog!

  39. Kenny
    Kenny  • 7 months ago

    This is totally awesome! I had noticed the cuts on my metas by google and I wondered what could be wrong. I had to run to my one-stop SEO solutions platform -Yoast.com and boom; I found the Answer!
    Many thanks for this timely tip, you guys rock!

  40. Muhammad Reza Ichsani
    Muhammad Reza Ichsani  • 7 months ago

    Thank you very much for this article, very helpful ^ _ ^

  41. David
    David  • 7 months ago

    Oh grrrrr.

    Pity the poor store owner who has many product descriptions and is faced with the prospect of shortening all those meta-descriptions. ‘Tis the stuff that bad dreams are made of.

    Could you just ping me when Big G says they can be longer again?

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 7 months ago

      Let’s hope that won’t be necessary, David!

  42. Riya Dixit
    Riya Dixit  • 7 months ago

    Hi,
    Can you tell ?
    what i do with existing Descriptions which is longer than 155-170 characters. And in Yoast next Update cover this feature means automatically cut longer description to short.

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 7 months ago

      Hi Riya,
      Best would be to make them shorter, especially for your posts that rank high. Not sure how we’ll implement this exactly in the new version of the plugin (if they will be cut off or not). We’ll check it and get back to you on that later!

      • Willemien Hallebeek
        Willemien Hallebeek  • 7 months ago

        Just checked, we won’t cut off anything! We’ll just show a red bullet when it’s too long.

  43. Charlotte
    Charlotte  • 7 months ago

    And will I still see my long meta description in your plugin or will you cut of – please not!

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 7 months ago

      Hi Charlotte, See the answer above. We’ll get back to you on that later!

      • Willemien Hallebeek
        Willemien Hallebeek  • 7 months ago

        Just checked, we won’t cut off anything! We’ll just show a red bullet when it’s too long.

        • AdmssionBlock
          AdmssionBlock  • 7 months ago

          Yeah, I did notice it the bar gets red once the words cross the cutoff limit. You guys always are first to save all the beginners thank you!

        • Charlotte
          Charlotte  • 7 months ago

          Thank you very much! That’s really the best solution!

  44. Noor Alam
    Noor Alam  • 7 months ago

    Can’t believe I’ll have to make them shorter again.

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 7 months ago

      Hi Noor, We neither… we’re in the same boat, unfortunately!

  45. Alvin Lau
    Alvin Lau  • 7 months ago

    Omg not again… I don’t think I’m gonna do anything to my older posts. I noticed Google just picking up snippets from my content than from my meta description.

    Just let the big boys conduct their experiments..

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 7 months ago

      Hi Alvin, If you’ve checked it and that’s the case then that’s probably the wisest thing to do!

  46. Sazzarimma
    Sazzarimma  • 7 months ago

    Hopefully it will not effected to the post that ranked well on Google. What I mean is even the old post with old meta description, it will not goes rank lower and lower because of this change. What do you think? Am I right?

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 7 months ago

      Hi Sazzarimma, I don’t think it will affect the rankings of your posts immediately. You might want to change them for your articles that rank high though, because it could affect your click-through rate. If no one clicks on your articles anymore, they might go down…

  47. Chris
    Chris  • 7 months ago

    Soon it won’t matter. Decentralized search engines will come and put giants like Google to sleep.

  48. Chook
    Chook  • 7 months ago

    Thanks for this info. It’s time to start “Jumping” and hope the length of the new Metas doesn’t get botched. Shorting the metas to be more on point and delete any fluff in them so they Fit cleanly into search results…

  49. Dinesh kumar
    Dinesh kumar  • 7 months ago

    Yes,
    We agree with the above mentioned points. Its clear we ought to follow the norms of Google and keep our SEO most updated.
    Thanks Toast
    Regards

  50. Peter Giblett
    Peter Giblett  • 7 months ago

    To me the 155 characters was always a guide. The most significant part of the meta-description should be evident before the 155th character. My rule was always, complete the sentence, which may take an extra 5 or 10 characters.

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 7 months ago

      Hi Peter, definitely smart to mention the most essential information first!

  51. Ronggo
    Ronggo  • 7 months ago

    hopefully friends – friends are not too panicked with this. all done for the best results

  52. sgfraz
    sgfraz  • 7 months ago

    This update is appreciated. I prefer peeping my descriptions short and specific since that seems to be most readers’ choice.

    • sgfraz
      sgfraz  • 7 months ago

      “I prefer keeping…” Excuse the misspelling.

      • Willemien Hallebeek
        Willemien Hallebeek  • 7 months ago

        You’re welcome! And agreed :-)

  53. Jorge Sheffy
    Jorge Sheffy  • 7 months ago

    It seems Google will choose whatever it wants for the meta description anyway so I don’t know if it’s important enough to stress about or even change unless it’s minimal work. I’ve had short meta descriptions and long ones and Google picks what it wants and even with a short one can decide to cut off text from the post itself no matter what you do. Google does what Google wants and we have to deal with it.

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 7 months ago

      Hi Jorge, Google does what it wants for sure… If you want to do the minimal it’s probably best to check which articles rank high, which snippets are shown for those articles now, and decide which ones to change based on that!

  54. KC Ellis
    KC Ellis  • 7 months ago

    Will the new meta description pane have character counts or just green and orange to mark good/bad length?

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 7 months ago

      Hi KC Ellis, Not sure how we’ll implement this exactly, we’ll get back to you on that later!

  55. Coinstart
    Coinstart  • 7 months ago

    Its better only change you’re good scoring pages in Google!

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 7 months ago

      Yep, thanks for the addition. That makes sense!

  56. GagnerArgent
    GagnerArgent  • 7 months ago

    Yes I noticed that in google search, my meta is cut off. I really have a lot of posts so I certainly agree with you Matt that you shouldn’t bother if you have a ton.

    However I would like to add that it would be wise to shorten the meta of posts or pages that are really important to your website because it may effect your click through rate. That’s just my two cents.

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 7 months ago

      Good addition, it’s best to focus on those first at least!

  57. Monique van Dam
    Monique van Dam  • 7 months ago

    I am glad I had not come around to lengthening them in the first place. So I am lucky there is no extra work. But what a set of switches…

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 7 months ago

      Lucky you, Monique :-)

  58. Doug Brown
    Doug Brown  • 7 months ago

    Why Google, why? LOL! Thanks for the update Marieke van de Rakt, I value your posts a lot so keep them coming! I guess I better start reducing the meta descriptions in all the sites we manage…

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 7 months ago

      Good question ;-) And good luck changing!

  59. Noble Ozogbuda
    Noble Ozogbuda  • 7 months ago

    Thanks For This Post, because i have been confused over this meta description, which is shorter in my search result but longer in Yoast Seo Plugin…

  60. Christopher Babson
    Christopher Babson  • 7 months ago

    What happens to our old/legacy Meta Descriptions in current versions of Yoast? Will Yoast update and automatically cut off our longer Meta Descriptions at 155 characters? Or will Google cut them off?

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 7 months ago

      We’ll get back to you on that later, Christopher!

      • Willemien Hallebeek
        Willemien Hallebeek  • 7 months ago

        Just checked, we won’t cut off anything! We’ll just show a red bullet when it’s too long.

  61. Marco Diversi
    Marco Diversi  • 7 months ago

    This is a very bad news! I always knew deep inside that it could not be real having these long descriptions.

    So yeah now it’s going to be a lot of work to fix all these descriptions I have at least 200 articles with long descriptions and I work alone on all of this.

    Does anyone want help? haha

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 7 months ago

      We feel your pain, Marco. We’re in the same boat!

  62. FATORO
    FATORO  • 7 months ago

    Really inconvenience is not it? We tried to write a long description tag with suggestions of 320 characters. But now it’s changed. Re-describing tags is really difficult with too many articles, products, etc.

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 7 months ago

      Hi Fatoro, Much inconvenience indeed! Perhaps it’s wise to check first which of your articles/ products rank high and start with those.

  63. ndtdr
    ndtdr  • 7 months ago

    This really sucks. Thanks for causing me a ton of work.

    I now have to rewrite meta descriptions for about 150 pages.

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 7 months ago

      We’re in this together, I’m afraid…we had to change so much too. Feels like a waste of time, doesn’t it?

  64. Patty
    Patty  • 7 months ago

    Marieke, is there any way to flag or identify all posts having too long meta descriptions now?

  65. Hardik Parsania
    Hardik Parsania  • 7 months ago

    Okay, now in new posts I will make my meta description short (about 150 to 170 words).
    But what about older posts with long meta description ?
    Do I really need to shorten them?

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 7 months ago

      Hi Hardik, Perhaps start with checking the rankings for those articles? And change the ones that rank high first!

    • Brodie
      Brodie  • 7 months ago

      If you want them to rank better yes.

    • Suresh Prasad
      Suresh Prasad  • 7 months ago

      @Hardik Parsania!
      You should change meta description of older posts also and make it short i.e. 145-165.

      Recently, I google more than 50 keywords to find out exact length of meta description. Accordingly, I suggest min. 145 characters and max. 165 characters with spaces.

    • Ryan
      Ryan  • 7 months ago

      Did you read the article? “What should you do?”

    • Matt
      Matt  • 7 months ago

      If you only have a few, sure. If you have a ton, don’t bother. This doesn’t apply to all searches and can change again any time.

    • Akash Srivastava
      Akash Srivastava  • 7 months ago

      Yes, you should shorten those older posts with long meta descriptions.

      • suven sharma
        suven sharma  • 7 months ago

        will long description affect site ranking in any way? or google is smart enough to choose what it wants? and changing description will affect post ranking or seo??


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