The meta descriptions of the first pages in search results are mostly rewritten by Google.
Should we still spend time on its meta descriptions? © Goodpics – stock.adobe.com
71% meta description rewrite rate
A recent study conducted by Portent shows that Google rewrites meta descriptions 71% of the time on the first page of search results on mobile and 68% on desktop. This means that on average Google would use the meta description tag of a page set by a site owner only 30% of the time.
The study looked at the search results for 30,000 keywords. She analyzed more precisely the rate of rewriting meta descriptions according to:
- of the ranking on the first page: pages displayed in position 4 to 6 on the first page of search results would be more likely to be rewritten by Google than those in position 1 to 3.
- search volume: Google’s meta description rewrite rate is lower if the search volume is high.
- the length of the request: long tail queries would mostly have search results snippets that don’t use the page’s meta description.
Google displays more characters when rewriting meta descriptions
It is found that Google displays more characters when it decides to rewrite a meta description tag, whether on desktop or mobile.
On desktop, Google can use between 160 and 167 characters, compared to only 156 to 165 for a site meta tag. If it is a page with a date, it can display between 147 and 149 characters, compared to 142 characters for a site meta tag.
On mobile, Google will display approximately 114 to 121 characters (118 to 121 for a site meta tag). If it is a page with a date, it can use between 99 and 105 characters (95 to 105 characters for a meta description taken from a site).
The study’s recommendations for SEOs
The author of the study still makes several recommendations to help SEOs and site owners write optimized meta descriptions that are more likely to be displayed.
For classic web pages:
- favor meta descriptions between 150 and 160 characters,
- Focus on the main idea with important keywords in the first 120 characters of your meta description to ensure it will be suitable on mobile.
For web pages with dates (example: blog post):
- write meta descriptions between 138 and 148 characters for blog posts and other pages with publication dates,
- write the most important part in the first 100 characters because the majority of meta descriptions with dates on mobile are cut after 105 characters.
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