Google has confirmed with Search Engine Land that it has made a change to the way it displays snippets in search results. A snippet is the description of a page shown below the URL in an organic search result that helps show how it relates to the search query.
A Google spokesperson told us:
We recently made a change to provide more descriptive and useful snippets, to help people better understand how pages are relevant to their searches. This resulted in snippets becoming slightly longer, on average.
Here is a screen shot highlighting the description snippet of a Google search result:
Over the past week or so, many have been noticing that the snippets were longer than what’s typically been shown.
RankRanger has been tracking these as well, and according to its tools, the snippet length has grown from 160 characters to almost 230 characters on average. Here is the growth chart:
Some webmasters and SEOs may consider updating their meta descriptions, but I don’t believe Google would recommend doing so. The snippets are more often dynamically generated based on the user query and content found in both the meta description and the content visible on the page. If Google is going to go with a longer snippet, it likely will pull that content from the page.