Long Description Snippets in Google Search Results: Bug or Feature?

- February 9, 2009

Lately, we’ve been noticing something a little different in Google’s search results with some search queries resulting in more descriptive information in the result. The search result shown here illustrates this:


The normal size for a snippet description in Google’s search results has always been about 160 characters but recently, we have observed description snippets with as many as 317 characters. This kind of result was reported in Italian search results last November and also on Webmaster World, some users reported being offered optional “long” descriptions in results. However, we are seeing these results lately with no special preference settings.

We can only speculate on what is triggering the longer descriptions. We have noted that the longer the search query is, the longer the snippet. So, a search for a three-word search query leads to shorter descriptions like this one:


Two or three word queries result in normal short snippet sizes:


These results are not just local. They were reported here in Florida and a colleague up in Minnesota tells me he’s seeing them there too.

We have noticed that, as reported in the TechCrunch article mentioned earlier, the extra descriptive text is pulled from the page even if the page contains more text in the description tag so we see no reason to change existing Best Practices for description tag length.

Is this just something new that Google is testing or is this a real change in the way that Google displays search results? We’ll just have to wait and see.

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