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How to get new longer meta descriptions (>250 chars.) for our pages?

     
2:53 pm on May 30, 2016 (gmt 0)

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The most often recommended length for meta descriptions used to be between 145 and 160 characters, including spaces.

However, lately I've been seeing much longer meta descriptions in SERPs; up to 250 characters. Which brings me to my question:

When does Google show these expanded meta descriptions, and (more importantly) what can we do to increase the chances of making these longer meta descriptions appear for our pages?
5:57 pm on May 30, 2016 (gmt 0)

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What are you searching for when you see the 250 characters in the description?
12:01 am on May 31, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I've seen them too, and haven't figured out what triggers them.

Sometimes they're completely pulled from the page content; other times they're a combination of the meta description plus something from the page content.
8:01 am on May 31, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for the replies. Some of the longer descriptions get 3 lines instead of the usual 2.
@Propools : Funny enough I was searching for "meta description length".

@buckworks : I think you're right; the longest ones seem to be pulled from the content. Might have to do with authority as well in that websites with higher authority have a better chance of getting the 3 line meta descriptions... Trying to figure this out as well...
5:13 pm on May 31, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Based on responses in this thread, you're not really asking about the meta description (an optional element of a page's html) are you? It's about the length of a Google snippet.

:: relatedly wondering if they've suddenly cranked up their incidence of accompanying-image in SERPs, or does it just seem that way because of the specific searches I'm doing lately? ::
5:36 pm on May 31, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Some commentary and insight here. What appears to have changed is the length has increased from 250 to 278.

[searchenginejournal.com...]
5:55 pm on May 31, 2016 (gmt 0)

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They were testing 255 characters in M. Description for a bit. I noticed a few things (can't post images here) but I have graphs.

When incognito mode, our meta tags showed up, but when NOT in incognito mode, Google grabbed the first 155 of the page content and totally ignored the Meta Description.

Then, when I change the Meta Description to only be 3 words - both in incognito mode and when not incognito mode (logged in), Google grabbed the page content and ignored the Meta Description.

They have been testing a lot of variables. They are trying to do to Meta Description and Title Tags what they did to Meta Keywords.

They scaled back a bit on the testing, but for the last 2 1/2 weeks it was tumultuous .
12:31 pm on June 1, 2016 (gmt 0)

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You're right! I did mean the Google snippets (thanks for pointing that out @lucy24).

Interesting... I've now seen a new snippet with over 300 characters, spanning over 4 lines. (Search: website traffic). This if course has to be pulled from the content, because not many websites have meta descriptions of more than the old 160 characters.
8:09 am on June 7, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Mod's note: We've got a situation where we've got two discussions on pretty much the same topic, and as a result the threads are starting to get very hard to follow simultaneously.

The essence of this discussion, as spietreser and lucy24 note, is that you've got to have a longer than usual meta description for Google to be able to use it in building the new longer snippet. Google appears to be rolling out these longer snippets on its own schedule.

The other discussion, started by Storiale, who's also posted in this thread, started before this discussion did and was apparently unaware of the new serp description format which had been implemented.

The discussion in that thread, though, suggests that Google is relying considerably on personalization signals and search history to generate the new snippets in the serps for pages that don't have long enough descriptions. Several posts in the thread discuss the likely personalization aspects in some detail.

Because of likely ongoing overlap, I see lots of possible confusion with no way to piece the two threads together. I'm going to take a chance that it's going to be more productive to continue the question as one single discussion, and that the incognito thread, which discusses personalization in many fairly detailed posts, is likely to be the simplest to build on. I'm therefore going to lock this thread and suggest that we continue the discussion in the other thread, here...

Different serp description when logged-in vs incognito
https://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4803418.htm [webmasterworld.com]

This is a difficult choice, I should add, because the question asked here about longer meta descriptions has the more general and forward-looking title... though, as lucy24 points out, the question actually is about the new longer snippets. I'll refer to this discussion in the icognito thread, and link back to it for reference, since this thread does contain some material not yet mentioned in the icognito discussion.
 

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