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Google just changed the meta description length...AGAIN
About six months ago Google increased the meta description length to most websites. From an average of 130-150 to an average of 280 with some meta description even going past 300 characters.
At first, I thought to myself this is just a test, Google always did stuff like this in the past, and this was like the second time of increased meta description length. So I decided to wait and keep my short meta descriptions.
However, most tools out there like YOAST, screaming frog, and SEOquake started to implement updated to reflect the new norm: optimal meta description was now between 220 and 280 characters, it was accepted that you could quickly go beyond 300 if your content were relevant enough.
A few days ago, Google reverted back to the 130-155 average length meta description!
For an SEO like me, this is a huge a very brutal shift. I mean, only a few weeks ago I completed my transition to new, bigger meta descriptions to my newest client. Now I'm supposed to go back and convince the client we need to go back to a maximum of 155 characters and waist at least a day implementing this change?
And I'm not the only one; you can find lots and lots of SEOs complaining on Twitter about this change. Some updated the meta descriptions to more than 100k pages and they need to work a lot to change everything back the way it was, especially if they didn't keep the old metas or if they need to adopt the new shorter metas.
If you didn't update to bigger meta descriptions than you probably took the best decision.
I still believe you should change and test new metas every once in a while to increase your organic CTR, but overall the SEOs that haven't updated to the last paradigm made the right decision.
What happens now if you did indeed update bigger meta descriptions, just like I did?
Well, first of all, don't rush into making changes. I waited like three months before I started making any updates, I also waited for all the big tools to update their algorithm, it felt more "official" once all big SEO checkers and tools move to the new norm.
But I was wrong; the tools were wrong. Google just decided for some reason that 220+ meta descriptions aren't really an improvement.
And if I remember this correctly, Google even urge not to make the change in the first place. So yes. The fault is our own. It's in our nature as SEOs to try stuff and make the best of the things we know about Google and the other search engines.
So what happens now? Well. I'm not doing anything for the time being. We all know that meta descriptions are not a ranking factor and Google claims it doesn't really matter what keywords you are using in your meta descriptions. Also, most metas for most queries are generated by Google from the content you have on your page, so it doesn't really matter what you put into your meta descriptions, for most searches Google will just pick whatever Google thinks is relevant.
I was also clever enough to implement the main keywords first, like in the first 130 characters. Organic CTR has indeed dropped since this change was implemented but I need to analyze a lot more data to figure out if the long meta descriptions are to blame for the drop in organic CTR.
I will probably go back to an average of 155 characters in the next six months for all my clients. If Google doesn't make any more changes until then and only if I think certain pages can do a lot better with shorter meta descriptions.
So what do you guys think? Have you made the change to bigger meta descriptions six months ago?
How are you dealing with this new update and will you change back to shorter metas?
Let me know what you think in the comments below. I'm really interested to know what happened with your analytic data after this change was implemented.
I'm keeping my eyes on everything the SEO community has to say about this change.