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Snippets and Titles

Snippets and Titles - answered by Matt Cutts

Matt's answer:

CUTTS: Hi everybody. I wanted to talk to you a little bit today about snippets and titles. So Google tries to return the best snippet, the most relevant snippet that we can so that–and the snippet is what–whenever you type, say, flowers in the search results. What we show for, you know, a given website, the title and the description underneath it, that we call a snippet. And we want it to be as relevant as possible. So if someone types in flower, we compute what we call keyword in context or quick snippets. And the idea is just that we want to know–we want to tell users whether that page is going to be useful. And we can do that by highlighting some of the places that flowers occur on that page, if that’s what you typed in for your search query. So if we only show the first 50 words for the page, that wouldn’t be useful to let you know whether you want to click through or to it. So we’ve always had the policy that we try to show useful snippets and useful titles. It’s funny because in the old days, some people used to call them ransom note snippets because they were like, “Oh, it’s stitched together from random places of the page.” But users really appreciated it. Even though it took a lot more computer power, we were willing to say, “Okay, that’s when–we’re willing to put in that computing power to compute a relevant snippet specifically for that query. For a different query, the snippet for that page would look different. By the same logic, we’ve been willing to show the titles that we think are most useful. For example, suppose the title of your page is Untitled or if there is no title. If that’s the case, we try to show a relevant useful title. So there’s lots of different heuristics that we can use. In addition, if you sort of have the same meta description across all over the different pages on your site or if you have the same title across all the different pages in your site, then we reserve the right to try to figure out what’s a better title, what’s a more descriptive title or snippet to show to users. And then finally, if you have a title that’s really, really long and has a bunch of different page–bunch of different words in it, we may still use that in our scoring. But when we’re ready to show the snippet to the user, we may try to find a better title. So I think webmasters have gotten used to the idea that the snippet can change based on the content of the page. We can sometimes use the open directory project snippets. We can use snippets from the page, you know, keywords and context or we can use the meta description tag and we do a bunch of different things to find the best description that we can. But webmasters are probably not as used to the idea that we’re willing to find a better title as well. So if you have a bad title or a title that we don’t think helps users as much, we can try to find a better title. And one that we think will be an informative result so that users will know whether that’s a good result for them to click on. So I just wanted to give people a heads-up about that because they’re used to the idea of the things below the title changing, but they’re maybe not as used to the idea that the title itself can change in our search results as well.

by Matt Cutts - Google's Head of Search Quality Team


Original video: