Google releases hundreds of minor algorithm updates every year and part of this involves testing in isolated verticals.

For a brief window today, Google UK was showing a heavily reduced meta description in the SERPs. As shown in Reddit user daamsie’s post and screenshot below, the descriptions appear to be under half their normal length and weren’t particularly helpful at all.

Screenshot of Google SERP testing

What could this update mean for search?

Whether this was a short-term issue or testing a potential update is unclear. What we do know is Google has paid no attention to meta descriptions for some time now so could it be that they’re phasing them out completely? Perhaps this format forms part of their next major update?

It wouldn’t be the first time in the past 12 months that they’ve changed and eventually removed features we’d grown accustomed to, stripping away authorship photos from the SERPs, followed quickly by removal of authorship in general.

Since it did happen for such a short window of time, we have little information right now, such is the way of the SEO industry!

While our initial reaction may be frustration at how useless our meta descriptions just became, it may turn out to be a good thing long term of it were implemented. Shorter snippets mean more screen real estate which is always a positive for mobile search. More importantly, it would also force SEOs to use clear and concise descriptions to highlight the page’s intent.

On the other hand, the negatives of this layout are obvious (the need to rewrite all of our meta descriptions, less room for Google-generated snippets etc) but could this be part of a greater change in the works?

For the time being we’re crossing our fingers and hoping this is the first and last time we’ll see this appear in the SERPs.

What do you think? Temporary testing or Google’s latest bold update to the SERP layout?

Did you see this change in any of your searches today?