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I know that the recommended meta description length should be between 150 and 160 characters.

However, on a website I am working on I have to make use of various php variables to make them "sort of" unique from each other. There are thousands of links and I cannot edit them all.

Because of this, some of my meta descriptions end up about 90 characters for example.

Will this raise any concerns ?

Do you recommend it would be better to leave them blank instead of just 90 characters.

Even though they are just 90 characters, they are actually relevant to the page content, saying exactly what the page contains.

An example:

"Buy $product from $brandname online. Only on $oursitename you can find more similar products."

So, as a result:

"Buy big red appels from Aswesome Brand online. Only on Example.com you can find more similar products."

I could of course increase the common text length to reach a minimum of 150 characters depending on the average product title length, however the common to unique text ration would go down in this case.

What would you recommend ?

Thank you.

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Just looking at the Google SERPs, the description shown in the results appears to range from about 130 to 310 characters. So, a meta description of about 90 chars is looking a bit short if you specifically want to get this description displayed in the SERPs.

If the meta description is too short then Google is simply going to generate its own description in the SERPs, which it might well do anyway if the description isn't directly relevant to what the user has searched for. And if you don't supply any description at all then Google will simply generate it's own. The meta description is not a ranking factor, it's just a description that the user "might" see in the search results and therefore "might" affect click through rates.

Will this raise any concerns?

I can't see how it would raise SEO related concerns, if that is what you mean, since it's not a ranking factor.

Do you recommend it would be better to leave them blank instead of just 90 characters.

It probably doesn't really matter, as far as Google is concerned at least. The fact that you seem to be happy to omit the meta description would suggest that you are happy for Google to always generate its own description in the SERPs - which it will do anyway if the description is too short or not relevant.

However, since you are able to generate a unique meta description that is relevant to the page content, even if it is a bit short, I would choose to leave it in. Google isn't the only search bot / spider.

  • The statement since it's not a ranking factor is a bit tough to define since what is a ranking factor changes depending upon who you ask. Given that Google rarely takes about what is a ranking factor, we are left to guess. Even then, rank is split into major areas; site rank, page rank, and rank after applying SERP filters which all have to be thought of separately. We do know this: Google has and continues to use the description meta-tag as a heavily weighted semantic clue. It is a separate query of several in the blended results and therefore speaks to how a page is found. – closetnoc Dec 11 '15 at 13:35
  • @closenoc A "ranking factor" is something that can directly influence the position (the "rank") of a result in the SERPs. Google has stated several times over the years that the meta description is not used in ranking within the search results - so there is no "guess" work involved: "it's worth noting that while accurate meta descriptions can improve clickthrough, they won't affect your ranking within search results." (Blog post from Sept 2007) – MrWhite Dec 11 '15 at 16:30
  • @closetnoc "Even though we sometimes use the description meta tag for the snippets we show, we still don't use the description meta tag in our ranking." (Blog post from Sept 2009). – MrWhite Dec 11 '15 at 16:31
  • My applogies. I did not say that the description meta-tag is a ranking factor as in page rank or site rank or any other. I did say it was a heavy semantic clue that will effect placement in the SERPs (and what I should have said) in as much as the title tag will. I was cautioning that the phrase ranking factor is often misapplied since the definition varies from one individual to another according to their understanding. Even Google engineers argue amongst themselves as to what is a factor or not. Please understand that there are several different ways/places rank is applied. – closetnoc Dec 11 '15 at 19:53
  • Please also understand that it is from my vantage point that I see most people describing ranking factor as applied to rank metrics within the index for a site or page and not for the dynamic application of the query and result set post filters. Sometimes what is described as not being a ranking factor simply means that it will not effect the semi-static metric calculations within the index totally forgetting that SERP placement is the third leg of the process. Like I said, it gets fuzzy. That is why I do not like the term/phrase so much. – closetnoc Dec 11 '15 at 19:57

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