Meta Description Can Now Be 320 Characters
Google have been experimenting with showing longer descriptions in search results, increasing from 160 to 320 characters. For website owners this means there's now an opportunity the say more about the content that will be found on a given page. How this is achieved is via the meta description. You can learn about meta descriptions at more length by reading another post I produced a while ago.
John Mueller (Google) gave some information about the changes that have been introduced in a Google Webmaster hangout on YouTube. What he confirmed is that Google do focus on a page meta description when formulating what they display on a search results page. However, he also highlights that Google will adjust what they display if they feel a meta description doesn't provide enough information or the context isn't quite right based on a searchers query.
Meta descriptions play no part in determining the ranking of a page. So if this is the case why bother with them? The answer's simple. A good meta description will improve the chances of someone clicking a search listing and threrefore generating a website visitor. A poor meta description will result in fewer visits.
A doubling of what Google display is not an opportunity to overlook but embarking on a mission to expand all your meta descriptions is a drastic step, and one that's unlikely to be sustainable. The most practical course of action is to focus on your website pages that are getting page one rankings. Expand the meta descriptions for these to make sure visits are not being put at risk by weak content. Keep monitoring rankings and continue to expand the descriptions of pages that start ranking on page one.
If you have the time you can expand the activity to pages ranking on page two of search results.
If you're unsure what pages of your website rank for what search queries with Google you can use Search Console to see what queries your site is being listed for, based on the last 90 days search activity. It won't reveal the actual pages but you manually make searches to see what specific pages are listed in search results. If this is too long winded we can help with the tools we have access to.