Dumb SEO Questions

(Entry was posted by Shannon Dipple on this post in the Dumb SEO Questions community on Facebook, Wednesday, December 4, 2013).

What triggers Google to show metatags for search results instead of Title tags?

Hello +Dumb SEO Questions  Here I am again, since you all did a fabulous job with my last one.

I was on a conference call tonight and was asked why Google is showing the meta keyword as the Rich Snippet for a site page. The site we were talking about is once again not my own, but I said I knew a great team who would likely give some excellent insight. +Greg Mattson , the owner of the site, said to please ask, so I told him I would and also to circle you.

The query was:

 "excellent romantic vacations" + delaware  

The listing above the one with the arrow shows a great rich snippet with the title of the page.  However, it is for the Delaware Valley in Pennsylvania.  The next result, with the arrow,  is from the same site, but is using the metatag instead so it looks worse but actually answers to intent of the query (the state of Delaware).

What makes this happen, that from the same site and the same query, one would get a great looking result (although not the one we wanted) along with one that looks like spam (but is a correct result)?

Another way to say it:  what triggers Google to show metatags for search results instead of Title tags and descriptions when the pages are quite good and they are clear about the topic??

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OUR ANSWERS

Answers from the Dumb SEO Questions Panelists.

  • Alistair Lattimore: Shannon, Ruth Burr wrote about a strange indexing problem on moz.com back in June 2012, where some posts would show the correct title tag while others would show the URL instead. After a bit of research it turned out that simply updating the title tag to a shorter, clearer, more focused title tag fixed the issue - you can read the whole post at http://moz.com/blog/long-title-tags. Al.
  • Micah Fisher Kirshner: More here: http://www.blindfiveyearold.com/url-titles
YOUR ANSWERS

Selected answers from the Dumb SEO Questions G+ community.

  • Shannon Dipple: Hello + ; Here I am again, since you all did a fabulous job with my last one.

    I was on a conference call tonight and was asked why Google is showing the meta keyword as the Rich Snippet for a site page. The site we were talking about is once again not my own, but I said I knew a great team who would likely give some excellent insight. + ;, the owner of the site, said to please ask, so I told him I would and also to circle you.

    The query was:

     ;"excellent romantic vacations" + delaware  ;

    The listing above the one with the arrow shows a great rich snippet with the title of the page.  ;However, it is for the Delaware Valley in Pennsylvania.  ;The next result, with the arrow,  ;is from the same site, but is using the metatag instead so it looks worse but actually answers to intent of the query (the state of Delaware).

    What makes this happen, that from the same site and the same query, one would get a great looking result (although not the one we wanted) along with one that looks like spam (but is a correct result)?

    Another way to say it:  ;what triggers Google to show metatags for search results instead of Title tags and descriptions when the pages are quite good and they are clear about the topic?
  • Andy Wigglesworth: I'd honestly love to answer your question but can't, I've compared a couple of pages to that one and there is absolutely no difference (apart from on page content) - there are a few other pages on that domain that is doing the same thing.

    For some reason, google decided to rewrite the Titles strangly...

    Unless anyone else knows and answers this question will obviously get covered tomorrow during the weekly hangout.
  • Shannon Dipple: Thanks +. I'm totally stumped so can't wait to hear the discussion (read it actually since I'm a teacher by day 😉?)?
  • Erik Freeman: I would play with the Title Tag of that page. You're asking a question in the tag instead of satisfying the query. A stab in the dark after a 10 second review but an easy test.
  • Shannon Dipple: That's a good point + ;Thanks!
  • Matt Hintze: Wow, that's a mystery. My best guess is that the Title was previously cached by Google with the "romantic-getaways-blahblah" Title, maybe by some WP plugin setting that adds the last part of the URL to the Title Tag as a default, If this is true, when it caches it again, it will update to the new Title.  ;I could be totally off base, but I'll be interested to know the answer to this.
  • Shannon Dipple: Good point, but this isn't a WP site and no plugins are used at all.  ;Perhaps it does have to do with the caching though and the page hasn't been crawled recently.  ;I will have to ask him that.
  • Greg Mattson: Hi +Shannon Dipple , everyone...
    Since it's my site, I guess I'll comment!

    Google Crawled last: Nov 29. It's being crawled regularly. So are some of the other pages that have the same problem.

    Question mark in the TItle tag: There's lots of SEO advice that encourages use of question marks, etc to make your Title tag stand out in the SERPS for higher CTR. I've seen plenty of them in rich snippets Google returns for pages, so I highly doubt that.

    One theory I haven't investigated, but is in line with our conference call Shannon: what if that page is the victim of 40 or 100 or 500 spammy or even toxic links pointing at it? Since I have basically never done a link audit in 10 years, I'm starting to wonder. ;
  • Shannon Dipple: + ;Yeah!  ;I'm glad you are here :-)  ;The toxic links would account for it dropping in the SERPS, but wouldn't have anything to do with the way the rich snippet is appearing, I think.  ;I can't wait to see what + ;comes up with as possibilities.

View original question in the Dumb SEO Questions community on G+, Wednesday, December 4, 2013).

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