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Yesterday we reported that Google cut down the search snippets length by about half just a few months (December) increasing it to 320 characters. Google’s Danny Sullivan confirmed this change on Twitter for us saying:

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.

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.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) May 14, 2018
This started a fire storm of angry tweets from the SEO community around the change. You can imagine, in December SEOs began changing their meta descriptions to double their length in an effort to improve their click through rate from the Google search results. So now, they need to go through them all again. Of course, this might mean more billable work for SEOs but for in-house SEOs, it can be a headache.
Google’ responded to that, that Google never told SEOs to make changes to their meta descriptions, in fact, they told them to not worry about it.

We don’t have a length on meta descriptions, nor are snippets always from meta descriptions, as we explained here: https://t.co/l6VPzUvA6cOur snippets, however, are shorter now, see: https://t.co/PgNkpKAMjp pic.twitter.com/iEJnVIeJME
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) May 14, 2018

We didn’t advise any changes on meta description tags. We advised there was nothing that needed to change.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) May 14, 2018

To be clear, that’s an update on snippets not meta description tags. Our advice on meta descriptions hasn’t changed.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) May 14, 2018

Again, see here: https://t.co/0ACg2ZB4noWe specifically did not give advice to change meta description tags nor a character count to help prevent people from making unnecessary changes.Various blogs and other places ignored that advice and told people to do differently….
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) May 14, 2018

You are suggesting we gave advice with empathy about the work it might generate for site owners. I’m saying we did consider that carefully. And our advice didn’t mean telling people they should write to a specific length nor did we deem that helpful.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) May 14, 2018
Google told us nothing fundamentally changed with their suggestions around writing meta descriptions.
Google won’t share a new maximum length for the snippets, because (1) they are dynamic and (2) they don’t want SEOs and webmasters to focus on these numbers:

The length of snippets is dynamic. We’re not stating a maximum length because of this.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) May 14, 2018

The search results UI is a very dynamic place, seeing changes there is not unexpected. Like on your own sites, it’s also important to us to keep testing, improving, trying out new things to see what works best for users on our pages.
— John ☆.o(≧▽≦)o.☆ (@JohnMu) May 14, 2018

Giving numbers makes people focus on numbers, not content. That’s not helpful. We provided some careful and thoughtful advice about all this, when we were asked in December. I’d encourage you and others to read it. https://t.co/l6VPzUvA6c pic.twitter.com/1bIPLLyqtQ
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) May 14, 2018

As I said, we gave carefully crafted guidance on snippets in terms of meta description tags. Adding a number to that guidance doesn’t make it better. It makes it worse. It focuses people on a count that matters little & makes them work to that.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) May 14, 2018

Snippets have a dynamic length. Meta description tags are not always used for them. We don’t think telling people to write to a “optimal” length is optimal. That’s our official advice. You can advise however you want, of course.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) May 14, 2018

If we say a number or a range, people will act like that number or range is somehow perfect or something to aim for, when things vary so much. That’s why in this case, we’re not giving numbers. They’re not has helpful as you think. But order off the menu as you want.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) May 14, 2018

Snippets are dynamic. They might cut at different places. And where they cut today might change tomorrow. So the fundamentals of write a good description that gets you from the start doesn’t change based on a character count nor need to involve that.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) May 14, 2018
Then Danny has to go off and explain that even though he works at Google, he offered the same advice when he did not work at Google:

Narrator: 2001 Danny said the same. https://t.co/iPKLguMGuX pic.twitter.com/9LaCugryPP
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) May 14, 2018
Some feel having a number, max and min, snippet length is helpful, and Google currently does not:

What’s right in our view is not to worry about writing to a specific character count. We think that’s the wrong advice. That’s why we didn’t give it. Would be nice if you and others actually embraced the idea that writing to a count isn’t optimal but get if you want to disagree.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) May 14, 2018

The context is that snippets have a dynamic length. They might change from query-to-query; month-to-month. They might not use a meta description tag at all. Writing a good description accounting for this doesn’t depend on an exact count; it depends on realizing there isn’t one.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) May 14, 2018

So I wrote and talked about SEO for years, to often unsophisticated people. My advice on meta description was then “hey, just take the first paragraph of your page and put it there, if you’re not sure.” Easy to do; often helpful. No worrying about counts….
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) May 14, 2018
But if Google did give specific advice, then what?

Any specific advice we give will get taken out of context, obsessed over, over-emphasized and optimized for in ways that are not helpful. So I totally get wanting something specific, but we aren’t doing that because it’s less helpful than it seems.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) May 14, 2018

It’s not that people take our advice as gospel. It’s that anything we give can be open to misinterpretation. We said you don’t need to change meta description tags or worry about length. Some outlets did big stories on how long they should be, the literal opposite of our advice.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) May 14, 2018
Google will hear and listen to your feedback and discuss it with the team:

I’m happy to take criticism, bring it back into Google and hope we improve. In this case, we were very careful in what we said and how we said to indeed have empathy on work. I’d encourage you and everyone to read that advice & pass it on.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) May 14, 2018
It is just amazing how many responses Danny posted yesterday on Twitter about the snippet change. He has been patient and very responsive and answered the same questions over and over again. I’d lose patience really quick.

Lesson of the day: It really doesn’t matter what @dannysullivan & @searchliaison says or doesn’t say. SEOs will still obsess over every word. I am guilty of this too, but seriously does debating the length if a meta tag really help your clients?? Is that going to move the needle?
— Joe Hall (@joehall) May 14, 2018

1996, apparently
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) May 15, 2018
Anyway, I rarely write any meta descriptions, I do agree, your content on your page should form them and you should focus on the content users see. If you have time, sure, write meta descriptions, but I rather write more and new content than write meta descriptions.
Forum discussion at Twitter.

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