The importance of a good snippet and title for your digital marketing content should not be overlooked. Google uses this information to create search engine results that are most relevant to browsers. Google automatically lists snippets and titles based on the content found on the page and presents the information to browsers. This is to quickly and effectively inform them of the possible results and how they relate to the search query that’s just been carried out. It’s Google’s way of creating a short-list of the most relevant results for its users.
When Google automatically generates a page title and description (also called a snippet), it gathers information from a number of different resources including but not limited to:
- Description info in the title of the page
- Meta tags included on the page
- Public information
- The markup on the page
While Google puts in every effort to ensure the best possible titles and snippets are automatically generated for a page, it’s not a perfect science. This could affect how relevant your page or content is considered. If you want to improve on your relevance rankings, you can do a few things that improve the effectiveness of your titles and snippets. How? Simply follow the basic guidelines below.
This guide will address the following:
- Creating high-quality titles
- Creating high quality snippets
1. Creating a High-Quality Title
Page titles need to be descriptive enough to provide immediate insight into the content provided. A browser needs to know at immediate glance whether the content on your page is relevant to their search or not. If your description is perfect, you won’t just get people clicking through to your page, but you will get the right people – your target audience – clicking through to your page. And that’s extremely valuable.
Tips for More Effective Content Page Titles
Making sure that each page has a title that’s highly relevant is essential. The title of the page is enclosed in the
<title>tags. You can use the HTML suggestions page found in the Search Console to find pages that are missing titles or have titles that might be incorrect.
Keep titles short, but descriptive. It might seem natural to title your website’s home page “Home”, but that can be seen as vague and doesn’t give the browser much information on what content they are about to encounter. Make sure that the title is short enough to read without being broken up. Keep titles to 60 characters, including spaces.
Don’t overdo variations of the same keyword. This is something that people did in the past and it can appear unhelpful to browsers and spam-like to Google. Using too many keywords in one title is termed “keyword stuffing” and should be avoided at all costs.
Don’t use standard page titles for every page. If every page title includes the same sequence of words such as “low-cost cars”, it becomes hard for browsers to tell whether they have been to that page before or not. Rather don’t include a string of words that vaguely relate to the page content and only describe what’s actually found on the page. For instance, “
<car dealership name> Audi A3” is a lot more useful to the browser (and Google) than “
<car dealership name> Cars for Sale, Cheap Cars, Second Hand Cars, Audis, Audi A3” which includes lots of uninformative info. If you think that some of your pages have repeat or duplicate word sequences in the titles, you can use the HTML suggestions page in Search Console to check.
Branding your website is important to you, so the repeat word sequence doesn’t apply to your actual business name. You can include your business name at the beginning or end of the title sequence of each page, but make sure that all other wording is unique and non-repetitive. For example
<title>car dealership name: a place to find affordable new and used cars for sale.
Blocking Google from crawling your pages can work against you in the long run. If your website has a robots.txt protocol, Google won’t be able to crawl pages for content, but it can still index your pages if it picks up the information from another source. In this case, it will be up to Google to use external information found to create the title and description. It’s recommended that you use a “noindex” directive instead of robots.txt if you want your site to be 100% blocked from Google indexing.
The Search Result & Page
<title> are Different, Why?
Google will sometimes try to correct title and snippet issues detected by trying to create a more relevant one. This is done by gathering information from content on the page, anchors, and external sources. Even if a page is effectively titled and described, a result might display the title differently in an attempt to show the browser just how relevant the content is. The reason for this is that when you create your page title, you are doing it statically, for one variation of query. Google can alter the title and snippet to fit in with different variations of the same type of query.
By showing the user content that’s more relevant, but still from the same page, the user will see that the page is in fact helpful/relevant to them and will click through instead of scanning past.
If you notice that your pages are appearing in search results with different titles to those you created, check to see if your titles have any of the abovementioned issues. You can always let Google know if you feel that your original title is more effective in the Help Forum for Webmasters.
2. Creating a High-Quality Snippets
When a search result is displayed, the snippet (or the description) tells the browser how relevant the content on the suggested page is to them. Because queries aren’t fixed, the snippet content can vary for different search terms.
You can let Google know what type of snippet content you think is best in 2 ways:
Rich results This is content that is structured in such a way that Google can easily understand it. Think recipes, reviews, events. You can read up on using rich results to improve website rankings here.
Meta description tags If Google finds relevant information in the
<meta>description tag content on a page, it may use that instead of other content found on the page. Meta descriptions suggest to Google how you think the page content is best described.
Don’t Want Google to Auto Generate Snippets? Prevent it.
If you don’t want snippets generated for your site in a search result, you can prevent Google from displaying them by using the
<meta name=”nosnippet”> tag.
Tips for More Effective Meta Descriptions
In some instances, the
<meta> description tag is used by Google to generate a search result snippet that’s relevant to your page’s content. This is only done if the meta description is more relevant to the search query than the content on the page. As such, your meta description should be as concise as possible. It must tell the browser immediately that the content is relevant to them and while there’s no limit on the characters of the description, if you want it to fit most screens, you should keep the description to 140 characters, including spaces.
Go through your website pages and ensure that each one has a meta description. If you worry that a few pages might be missing these tags, you can use HTML improvements page in the Search Console to locate the offending pages.
Don’t use generic or repeat descriptions from one page to the next. This is considered “boilerplate” text and Google is less like to display such text. Each page should have a unique description that is specifically relevant to the content on it. If your website is expansive and you don’t have time immediately to create unique meta descriptions for each, make a list of priority pages and start there.
Try include helpful facts in the meta description. Your meta tag doesn’t just have to be an informative sentence about the content. It can also include details such as the author, date released, or even a byline. This is particularly helpful if your content is about a product as you can list the key features of the product in the meta tags and they should appear in search engine results when your page is indexed. A good example of this is the following meta description about a car for sale.
<meta name=”Description” content=”Audi A3 for sale, 1995 model, Price $ 12 000”>
Generate programmatic descriptions. News media sites and similar have an easier time creating unique descriptions as each story is unique. When it comes to sites that are database driven, it’s a little more difficult. Programmatic generation of your descriptions can be helpful, especially when it comes to product sites. As long as the description is concise and understandable to humans, it can be programmatically generated. Don’t use long strings of words in a meta description. These are often not shown.
Make sure that your descriptions are effective. Remember that the snippet shown in a search result is not what the user will see on the page that they click through to. If your description is incorrect and not relevant to the content, the browser clicking through will be disappointed and you will be receiving traffic that’s of no use to you.