Titles & Meta Descriptions
Titles and meta descriptions are forms of metadata used to tell search engines what a given webpage is about — and to inform users about the content of a page when they come across it in their search engine results pages (SERPs).
The SEO Office Hours notes below provide advice to help you optimize your page titles and meta-descriptions.
Sometimes, hyphens in keywords do matter (but, as always, it depends…)
Adding hyphens to keywords can, theoretically, change the meaning of that word or phrase. This is more common in some languages than others. Therefore, adding and removing hyphens can lead to things being seen as different words in the eyes of Google (although it depends on the circumstances). Try to match what the majority of your audience seems to be using as a priority.
You can’t force Google to show a specific URL as a sitelink in the SERPs
Sitelinks are additional results that are sometimes shown below a search result in Google.
John clarified that there are no meta tags or structured data that would force or recommend a specific URL to appear as a sitelink in the SERPs. Google’s systems try to figure out what is related or relevant when looking at a web page. He recommended having a good website structure, clear internal links, and to include clear titles to support sitelinks. There is no guarantee that it will yield a sitelink in the search results, but it helps Google to figure out what content is related and to choose a site link based on that information.
Titles shown in SERPs are based on the page and not the user query
The titles shown in search results on Google are based on the page itself and not the search query. If you notice that the title displayed in the SERPs is being changed between older and newer versions of a page, it could be that an older version of the page has been used for indexing and processing. You can resubmit that page for reprocessing and once it’s processed, use a site:query to recheck the title. You could use this process to understand how Google is changing it and to help to fine-tune your pages (and even understand changes that may be needed for larger templates).
Using emojis in page titles or meta descriptions will not harm (or help) SEO
Is it okay, from an SEO standpoint, to use emojis in website page titles or meta descriptions? John replied that it is ok to use emojis in your page titles and descriptions, but they may not all be shown in the search results (especially if they think that it disrupts the search results or looks misleading). However, there is no significant advantage to using emojis either. Basically, using emojis doesn’t hurt or harm SEO. At most, Google may try to understand an equivalent word for the emoji, but overall, using emojis is unlikely to either hurt or benefit SEO.
It should now be easier to experiment with page title generation
As of Summer 2021, page titles are no longer tied to individual queries but instead are tied to the page itself. With this in mind, John recommends trying out different approaches for title tags and rolling out the successful formula across similar page types.
New Snippet Robots Meta Tags Aren’t Essential
You don’t have to implement the new snippet meta tags to appear in search results and in rich results. They are optional, and can be used to set things like maximum character counts, the size of image previews, and the length of video previews. John recommends using these tags only if you want to change the way your snippets are currently shown in search.
There is No Direct Ranking Advantage to Including a Website’s Name Within the Title Tag
Google will automatically add a website’s branding to title tags when displaying pages in search results as it helps users to better understand the context of the page and displays the relevancy. However, there is no direct ranking advantage for websites who already include this.
Include Supporting Descriptive Content with Videos
From Google’s perspective, having a video by itself makes a page hard to understand in terms of its topical focus. Make sure you also add supporting descriptive content to help search engines understand the purpose of pages that contain videos.
Google Decides if Specified Title Tag Should be Used For Ranking & SERPs
Title tag changes are complex for Google to process as they need to decide if they should use the title tag provided for ranking and in search results.
Google May Filter Out Parts of Meta Descriptions if Misleading or Spammy
Google may filter out parts of meta descriptions if they are deemed them to be spammy or misleading.