Goolge Opts For Longer Snippets – But How Long?

The Official Google Blog has announced a change to the length of the snippet shown in search results – the problem is, they don’t say how long it will now be. In the past it was restricted to 160 characters and from some of the screen shots, it appears there is at least another line of text.

What does this mean for web masters? Obviously you will be able to write better descriptions for your pages – or will you? Again, it is not clear. In fact, from Google’s own words, the snippet situation could be changing direction all together. Think about this statement:

When you enter a longer query, with more than three words, regular-length snippets may not give you enough information and context. In these situations, we now increase the number of lines in the snippet to provide more information and show more of the words you typed in the context of the page.

Will the longer snippet only apply to longer queries? For Google to provide more information related directly to that query, they will have to take the snippet from the pages content, not from the meta description tag. They want to give the searcher more information but “in context” – and that is the keyword here – in context.

Is this then the beginning of the end for the meta description tag? Will it go the same way as the meta keyword tag? It is certainly worth watching and maybe trying to nail Google down to explain exactly how they intend providing ‘in context’ snippets to long tail searches. From my perspective, it can only be from the pages content where that search term exists.

It will be interesting to see how this pans out and what effect it will have on SEO and the clever crafting of descriptions. We know Google likes to control as much of the search information displayed as possible. Is this another example and is this goodbye to description meta tags?

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