First of all, you may be wondering, "What exactly is a 'meta description'?" It's defined as a snippet of information that's shown when your results show up in a search engine. This description should be long enough that it's sufficiently descriptive, somewhere between 50 to 300 words long.
So now that you know what a 'meta description' is, Virtual Market Advantage will look into the best length for this description to get the biggest benefit from a search engine.
Meta Description Averages
If you take a look at different meta description lengths, you'll see that there are variations in the lengths based a couple of different factors. Most meta description lengths will show an average of 215 words. This is higher than in the past, as the median length of most descriptions is somewhere around 186 words.
This means that as you start to think about your presence in the search engine results, you really need to try and understand exactly what Google looks for in meta description length. Where are they cutting them off? This is important, because you want the best information possible in the shortest amount of words for your meta description.
While most snippets are cut off in the 300-355 character range, some are cut even shorter, due to either a video snippet being included or a snippet that was pre-cut before it got added. It seems that Google likes the use of original meta description tags and sees the videos as a sort of snippet themselves, making the character snippet shorter. So it's a sound bet that your meta description length can be anywhere around 300 words and Google will not cut it off, unless you add a video snippet to it. Should you want to add one, you should shorten your meta description length to somewhere around the 150 mark to be safe.
Do Meta Description Lengths Matter?
As Google seems to be rewriting so many snippets, it begs the question of whether the meta description tags are needed at all. Some of the descriptions have just had text from the website added, while others were shortened to fewer words. There are some cases, however, where Google did add its own text, because the description was too short and not descriptive enough.
On some larger sites, there are no meta descriptions at all, and these sites rank well in search results. This could be due to their larger size and the fact that more visitors are going to their site without needing to search. If you're a smaller site just getting started in SEO and wanting to build your page rank, then yes, your meta description length matters (along with what is says).
Meta Description Length
As you start to write your meta description and tags, it's okay to experiment with the overall length of the description. You should be okay with a length of around 300 words. There can be cases where the length of your snippet may be cut off, but the overall benefit you could get by packing in more information offsets the risk you take in losing some part of your snippet.
On the other hand, there's no need for you to over work your snippet and add on to it just because you can. The use of snippets are there to encourage clicks, so you may not want to give away too much information. By giving the searcher just enough information in your snippet, you're encouraging them to click on the link to your site.
Overall, you want to experiment with your meta description both in length and in the information you include in your snippet. Once you see how your snippet reads in Google's search engine, you can always go back and adjust it accordingly. Start with a meta description length of anywhere from 50 to 300 words. This is a process that will take time, and as your business and website grow, you may find that your snippet in the search engine is something that needs adjustment.