Google has officially confirmed that they have made alterations to the way snippets are displayed in SERPs. Snippets specifically refer to the description located beneath the URL in organic search results (traditionally the META description), that gives a brief overview of what the page is about and how it relates to the search query.
Google is quoted as saying
“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.”
The change has been noticed over the past couple of weeks and according to statistics, the length of snippets has increased from 160 characters to around 230 on average.
If you are considering jumping on and updating your Meta description to facilitate the change, it is inadvisable at this point. The snippet is, more often than not, generated dynamically based on what the user has searched and is constructed from both the Meta description and content from the page itself. At this stage, it can be safe to assume that with the snippet length being longer, Google will look to source the content from text within the page itself.
RankRanger has been tracking the data surrounding search snippets, and whilst they can now be anything from 160 to 230 characters, the length of snippet will depend on the search query; so not every snippet will necessarily be 230 characters long.
Google’s Danny Sullivan stated
“don’t go expanding your meta description tags. It’s more a dynamic process.”
In other words, Google will only display longer snippets when it is absolutely necessary to give the user the best search experience.
In summary: updating your meta descriptions at this point would be time better spent elsewhere, such as ensuring your content is in-depth and of good quality so that if the need arises, Google can pull it into a lengthier snippet.