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 By ‘old’ we mean the ‘new’ one – about 320 characters – which is outdated already.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
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.
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.
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.
Thanks for sharing this great news with us. Now we also have to change our snippets length.
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.
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.
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?
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!
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.
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.
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
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…
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!
Google and their every month updates. Thanks for this article
Thanks for sharing the information with us, was very useful. Will help in future while working on meta-description. Thanks once again.
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.
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.
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.
Thanks for pointing out!
Thanks for sharing beauty with us. I hope you will share some more info. Please keep sharing!
i really like these websites
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?
Oops, something must have gone wrong there! It should have said: “Meta descriptions are going to be shorter again”. Our sincerest apologies!
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?
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.
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.
Wow,,, All the work to increase the descriptions at the beginning of the year does not work anymore hahahah
Sad News! Because We put a large amount of effort for expanding meta description length on our website
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 :)
Thanks for sharing, please continue to keep us updated.
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:)
I actually liked shorter version. Good to know they are cutting off the length
thanks! for informing us.
Slaves to Google
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! :)
If Google finds any information more relevant to search query then it may sometimes show longer meta descriptions in results.
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 ..
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 ?
Hi Wazifa, we’d advise to use an H1 for the title and use H2 and H3 for headings in the text.
Can you tell about the importance of Title Tag?
And is it necessary to display tags on the site ? If I add many tags will it effect the rankings negatively ?
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.
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.
Great, then you should be good.
So can we manually cut/ short the sentences or else will it automatically cut the words to 155 characters.
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
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!
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!
Thank you very much for this article, very helpful ^ _ ^
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?
Let’s hope that won’t be necessary, David!
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.
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!
Just checked, we won’t cut off anything! We’ll just show a red bullet when it’s too long.
And will I still see my long meta description in your plugin or will you cut of – please not!
Hi Charlotte, See the answer above. We’ll get back to you on that later!
Just checked, we won’t cut off anything! We’ll just show a red bullet when it’s too long.
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!
Thank you very much! That’s really the best solution!
Can’t believe I’ll have to make them shorter again.
Hi Noor, We neither… we’re in the same boat, unfortunately!
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..
Hi Alvin, If you’ve checked it and that’s the case then that’s probably the wisest thing to do!
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?
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…
Soon it won’t matter. Decentralized search engines will come and put giants like Google to sleep.
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…
We agree with the above mentioned points. Its clear we ought to follow the norms of Google and keep our SEO most updated.
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.
Hi Peter, definitely smart to mention the most essential information first!
hopefully friends – friends are not too panicked with this. all done for the best results
This update is appreciated. I prefer peeping my descriptions short and specific since that seems to be most readers’ choice.
“I prefer keeping…” Excuse the misspelling.
You’re welcome! And agreed :-)
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.
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!
Will the new meta description pane have character counts or just green and orange to mark good/bad length?
Hi KC Ellis, Not sure how we’ll implement this exactly, we’ll get back to you on that later!
Its better only change you’re good scoring pages in Google!
Yep, thanks for the addition. That makes sense!
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.
Good addition, it’s best to focus on those first at least!
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…
Lucky you, Monique :-)
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…
Good question ;-) And good luck changing!
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…
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?
We’ll get back to you on that later, Christopher!
Just checked, we won’t cut off anything! We’ll just show a red bullet when it’s too long.
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
We feel your pain, Marco. We’re in the same boat!
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.
Hi Fatoro, Much inconvenience indeed! Perhaps it’s wise to check first which of your articles/ products rank high and start with those.
This really sucks. Thanks for causing me a ton of work.
I now have to rewrite meta descriptions for about 150 pages.
We’re in this together, I’m afraid…we had to change so much too. Feels like a waste of time, doesn’t it?
Marieke, is there any way to flag or identify all posts having too long meta descriptions now?
Hi Patty, You can use a tool like screaming frog to list all your posts and pages with meta descriptions that are too long! https://www.screamingfrog.co.uk/page-title-meta-description-lengths-by-pixel-width/
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?
Hi Hardik, Perhaps start with checking the rankings for those articles? And change the ones that rank high first!
If you want them to rank better yes.
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.
Did you read the article? “What should you do?”
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.
Yes, you should shorten those older posts with long meta descriptions.
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??