In fact, the study found Google actually rewrites meta descriptions for pages more than 70% of the time, and 30,000 keywords were examined to arrive at that figure. The study focused mainly on page one of organic results and didn't include featured snippets. Results placed 4th to 6th got the most rewrites, and the study's authors said:
|"I speculate that since positions 1-3 get the most click-through rate, Google might be trying to boost the relevance for 4-6 to get more clicks before users leave the page or search for something else."|
"So why do we see this relationship? I think it's because SEOs tend to focus on writing meta descriptions for head terms more than the long-tail. You're probably not hyper-focusing on the ten searches per month terms, and they probably vary too much to even target with any one description."
Interestingly - and this might infuriate anyone who's repeatedly had to delete and rewrite meta descriptions to fit the limits - Google gives itself more room for description when it rewrites than it does to publishers on desktop. That means between 160 and 167 characters for a rewrite, and just 147 to 149 for us!
So, how can you make the data in this study work for your own SEO efforts? The study's authors recommend keeping meta descriptions between 150 and 160 characters for regular pages and 138 to 148 for blog pages. You also get advice to put what you deem most important within the first 100 characters.