How to Write Titles & Meta Descriptions

Google’s generation of page titles and descriptions (or “snippets”) is completely automated and
takes into account both the content of a page as well as references to it that appear on the
web. The goal of the snippet and title is to best represent and describe each result and explain
how it relates to the user’s query.

We use a number of different sources for this information, including descriptive information in
the title and meta tags for each page. We may also use publicly available information, or create
rich results based on
markup on the page.

While we can’t manually change titles or snippets for individual sites, we’re always working
to make them as relevant as possible. You can help improve the quality of the title and snippet
displayed for your pages by following the general guidelines below.

Create descriptive page titles

Titles are critical to giving users a quick insight into the content of a result and why it’s
relevant to their query. It’s often the primary piece of information used to decide which result
to click on, so it’s important to use high-quality titles on your web pages.

Here are a few tips for managing your titles:

Why the search result title might differ from the page’s <title> tag

If we’ve detected that a particular result has one of the above issues with its title, we may
try to generate an improved title from anchors, on-page text, or other sources. However,
sometimes even pages with well-formulated, concise, descriptive titles will end up with different
titles in our search results to better indicate their relevance to the query. There’s a simple
reason for this: the title tag as specified by a website owner is limited to being static,
fixed regardless of the query.

When we know the user’s query, we can often find alternative text from a page that better
explains why that result is relevant. Using this alternative text as a title helps the user,
and it also can help your site. Users are scanning for their query terms or other signs of
relevance in the results, and a title that is tailored for the query can increase the chances
that they will click through.

If you’re seeing your pages appear in the search results with modified titles, check whether
your titles have one of the problems described above. If not, consider whether the alternate
title is a better fit for the query. If you still think the original title would be better, let
us know in our Google
Search Central Help Community.

How snippets are created

Snippets are automatically created from page content. Snippets are designed to emphasize and
preview the page content that best relates to a user’s specific search: this means that a page
might show different snippets for different searches.

Site owners have two main ways to suggest content for the snippets that we create:

How to adjust snippet presentation

You can, alternatively, either prevent snippets from being created and shown for your site in
Search results, or let Google know about the maximum lengths that you want your snippets to be.
Use the nosnippet meta
tag to prevent Google from displaying a snippet for your page in Search results, or use
the max-snippet:[number]
meta tag to specify the maximum length for your
result snippets. You can also prevent certain parts of the page text content from being shown
in a snippet by using the data-nosnippet
tag.

Create good meta descriptions

Google will sometimes use the <meta name="description"> tag from a page to generate a search results
snippet, if we think it gives users a more accurate description than would be possible purely
from the on-page content. A meta description tag generally informs and interests users with
a short, relevant summary of what a particular page is about. They are like a pitch that
convince the user that the page is exactly what they’re looking for. There’s no limit on how
long a meta description can be, but the search result snippets are truncated as needed,
typically to fit the device width.

  • Make sure that every page on your site has a meta description.
  • Differentiate the descriptions for different pages. Identical or similar
    descriptions on every page of a site aren’t helpful when individual pages appear in the web
    results. In these cases we’re less likely to display the boilerplate text. Wherever possible,
    create descriptions that accurately describe the specific page. Use site-level descriptions
    on the main home page or other aggregation pages, and use page-level descriptions everywhere
    else. If you don’t have time to create a description for every single page, try to prioritize
    your content: At the very least, create a description for the critical URLs like your home
    page and popular pages.
  • Include clearly tagged facts in the description. The meta description
    doesn’t just have to be in sentence format; it’s also a great place to include information
    about the page. For example, news or blog postings can list the author, date of publication,
    or byline information. This can give potential visitors very relevant information that might
    not be displayed in the snippet otherwise. Similarly, product pages might have the key bits
    of information—price, age, manufacturer—scattered throughout a page. A good meta
    description can bring all this data together. For example, the following meta description
    provides detailed information about a book.

    <meta name="description" content="Written by A.N. Author,
    Illustrated by V. Gogh, Price: $17.99,
    Length: 784 pages">

    In this example, information is clearly tagged and separated.

  • Programmatically generate descriptions. For some sites, like news media
    sources, generating an accurate and unique description for each page is easy: since each
    article is hand-written, it takes minimal effort to also add a one-sentence description. For
    larger database-driven sites, like product aggregators, hand-written descriptions can be
    impossible. In the latter case, however, programmatic generation of the descriptions can be
    appropriate and are encouraged. Good descriptions are human-readable and diverse. Page-specific
    data is a good candidate for programmatic generation. Keep in mind that meta descriptions
    comprised of long strings of keywords don’t give users a clear idea of the page’s content,
    and are less likely to be displayed in place of a regular snippet.
  • Use quality descriptions. Finally, make sure your descriptions are truly
    descriptive. Because the meta descriptions aren’t displayed in the pages the user sees, it’s
    easy to let this content slide. But high-quality descriptions can be displayed in Google’s
    search results, and can go a long way to improving the quality and quantity of your search
    traffic.

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