Google has talked about titles in search results in multiple videos in the past, but once again takes on the topic in the latest Webmaster Help video.
They keep getting questions about it, so why not? In fact, Cutts shares two different questions related to titles in this particular video.
“Basically, whenever we try to choose the title or decide which title to show in a search result, we’re looking for a concise description of the page that’s also relevant to the query,” Cutts says. “So there’s a few criteria that we look at. Number one, we try to find something that’s relatively short. Number two, we want to have a good description of the page, and ideally the site that the page is on. Number three, we also want to know that it’s relevant to the query somehow. So if your existing HTML title fits those criteria, then often times the default will be to just use your title. So in an ideal world it would accurately describe the page and the site, it would be relevant to the query, and it would also be somewhat short.”
He continues, “Now, if your current title, as best as we can tell, doesn’t match that, then a user who types in something, and doesn’t see something related to their query, or doesn’t have a good idea about what exactly this page is going to be, is less likely to click on it. So in those kinds of cases, we might dig a little bit deeper. We might use content on your page. We might look at the links that point to your page, and incorporate some text from those links. We might even use the Open Directory Project to try to help figure out what a good title would be. But the thing to bear in mind is that in each of these cases, we’re looking for the best title that will help a user assess whether that’s what they’re looking for. So if you want to control the title that’s being shown, you can’t completely control it, but you can try to anticipate what’s a user going to type, and then make sure that your title reflects not only something about that query or the page that you’re on, but also includes sort of the site that you’re on, or tries to give some context so that the user knows what they’re going to get whenever they’re clicking on it.”
Google offers tips for creating descriptive page titles in its help center here. It suggests making sure each page on your site has a title specified in the title tag, for starters. It says to keep them descriptive and concise, to avoid keywords stuffing, to avoid repeated or boilerplate titles, to brand your titles, and to be careful about disallowing search engines. It gets into significantly more detail about each of these things, as well as about how it generates titles when the site fails to meet the criteria.
The page also includes this old video of Cutts talking about snippets in general:
Here’s a video from five years ago in which Matt talks about changing titles as well:
Image via YouTube