Meta Descriptions Can Now be Well Over 160 and 320 Characters [Case Study]

As of December 4, 2017, you can now create Meta Descriptions well over the previous 160 character limit. I have now run multiple tests, and while Google can indeed show its own Snippet in search results, you can influence the snippet shown by using a large, 300+ character meta description just like this one.

Update 12/6/2017: I have a new article which is better than this one here.

Update 12/4/2017: The maximum sized Meta Description I’ve been able to get to display in Google search as a Snippet is 302 characters. As noted below, mobile searches are not nearly as long. A creative meta description could consist of 2 sentences, one which is 160 characters, and the second which is up to 140 more:

After writing this article, I updated the page’s Meta Description and had the page recrawled. The new Snippet displays exactly what I have as a Meta Description and is 302 characters. Any longer and it was cut off.

My test (on desktop)

I tend to put the most accurate and concise description of a page at the very top of an article. Just like I did on this page. I do this for several reasons (most of the time). For my test, I created a page (this one) and copied the top paragraph in to my content management system’s back end as a Meta Description. I published the article and searched for it and ta-da, my 300+ character meta description displayed perfectly in Google’s search results. In this case, I intentionally left the “4” out of the date in the Meta Description to be sure Google was using the Meta for the Snippet. They did.

A recent change

I just published the article “Google Ignoring Meta Descriptions and Enlarging Snippets“. That’s because as of November 2017, Google has suddenly been displaying huge snippets in search results. They are also ignoring people’s meta descriptions and crafting their own snippets.

Meta Description vs Snippet

If you are confused by this terminology, you are not alone.

You can manually edit a page’s Meta Description. And in many cases, that is what is shown in Google’s search engine results pages. However, the technical name for what is displayed is a Snippet.

Screenshots!

Ok, here is the screenshot (and yes this site gets indexed very quickly). I’ll have to do a little more testing with this as it appears that my snippet was chopped right at 300 – 302 characters:

(And yes I know my title is “too long” – while 99% of my titles are “just right” I personally never worry about this kind of thing – in fact I sometimes intentionally make them long.)

This isn’t a guarantee

Google has been replacing snippets in search results for at least 7 years now. Just because you have set a Meta Description does not mean that Google will use it.

Tips going in to 2018 and further testing

If you are seeing funky snippets in search results, try making a neat, concise and accurate 240 – 300 character Meta Description for your pages, fetch and render them and see if your snippet improves.

I am personally now playing with meta descriptions which explain everything in 160 characters, and then adding onto that with 140 more. That’s because Mobile search results are still displaying 160:

Len

President at Telapost
I create content and do SEO for law firms, small businesses and companies worldwide. I have been generating traffic online since 1992. I have owned multiple successful companies. I'm an organic eater, nature lover and German Shepherd owner. Feel free to contact me here.

Leave a Reply


SEO, Content Marketing, and Social Media Strategy varies drastically depending on which vertical you are in, where you are located, and more. CONTACT ME 919.475.1883