At the beginning of May 2015, Google officially announced that the number of mobile searches had finally overtaken the number of desktop searches. The introduction of Google’s mobile-friendly tag the month before led many websites to adopt a responsive design to receive the potential rankings boost associated with the mobile algorithm update.


Mobile search must now be an integral part of any serious SEO strategy as the number of mobile users has become greater than the combined figure of those using desktop and tablet. Targeting mobile search issues highlighted within the newly named Google Search Console has become the focus for many webmasters.

In addition to an increased focus on user experience, metadata remains an essential part of optimising a website from both a search and click-through rate perspective, whether on desktop or mobile.

It is widely accepted within the SEO industry that 160 characters is the optimum length for a meta description. However, the changing face of search and the devices used to conduct searches has rapidly evolved over the past year, suggesting that there may be a need to review this convention.

The graph below compares the number of characters in meta descriptions of the top result returned by Google for a variety of phrases.

Keyword Mobile Length Desktop Length
Punch Communications 119 154
Reebok 114 152
Sony 114 147
Dyson 110 155
Social media 111 154
Mobile phone contracts 114 153
Car leasing 112 151

The data shows that for the term ‘Punch Communications’, the meta description displayed on mobile was 35 characters shorter than the desktop description, which displayed the full 154 characters included within the source code. Despite the limited amount of data collected, the results suggest that on average Google displays 152 characters within its desktop search results compared to the 113 for mobile results, a significant difference of 39 characters.

So what should we do based on these results? We would recommend reducing meta descriptions to under 113 characters to ensure that your full description is displayed on mobile devices; this way your descriptions will be at a length that is safe for both mediums. Alternatively, make sure that the most important information is included in the opening part of the description.