SEO best practices recognize that meta descriptions should be limited to between 140 & 156 characters to ensure full display in the in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
The best practice length of you meta description depends on whether the webpage has a publish date associated with it, or not.
Does the blog/article publish date takes away from meta description character limit?
When there is a publish date associated with your content, it will appear in the SERPs and eat into the character count available for your meta description.
The best practice lengths for meta descriptions are as follows:
- If there is a date associated to your content (a WordPress post), it is best to use a maximum meta description length of 140-144 characters.
- If you have no publish date (a WordPress page), you can aim for the maximum length of around 156 characters.
How can you check your meta description lengths in WordPress?
If you are using a good WordPress SEO plugin, like Yoast, they make meta description length something that you don’t even need to think about.
At the bottom of each page and post you can specify your meta description and Yoast will let you know if it is too long or too short (same goes for checking the length of your title tag).
In the Yoast settings, there is an option to enable dates in post snippets so they are also factored in to your description lengths, if required.
Why isn’t Google using your well-written meta description?
Search engines won’t always show your meta description, even if it’s the correct length. Search engines want to provide the best experience possible to users and they will provide the user with a description that they think is most relevant to the search query.
Sometimes, this means search engines will ignore your meta description and pull through a snippet of your visible page content in place of the meta description (text in accordions or tabs are not considered).
This has the added benefit of having the possibility of being much longer than your specified description (up to ~340 characters), and taking up significantly more ‘real estate’ in the SERPs.