What are titles and meta descriptions?
Title tags and meta descriptions are entered per page in the CMS of your website. The title tag is also referred to as meta title or SEO title and is not visible to visitors, except in the browser tab.
The meta description is also called SEO description. It is not visible to visitors but can be used by other platforms to display descriptive text when sharing a link. The title tag and meta description are primarily intended for search engines.
What does Google show in a search result?
Search engines can display the entered information from the title and meta description in search results as a snippet. You can see that in the example below. The title you see was entered by myself in my CMS, as well as the description below it.
This immediately shows the importance of title tags and meta descriptions: they can help persuade users of search engines to click on your result. In that sense, they can have an impact on the click-through rate (CTR).
Why does Google often show something different?
However, what you need to know is that Google increasingly shows something different than what you entered in your CMS. Google tries to align the displayed information with the search query. Therefore, what can happen is that you see a search term you used appearing. If you enter a search query using different terms than what was entered, Google looks for those terms on the page itself and creates a different description. This is not new; I wrote a blog post about it back in 2014.
Panic: Google plays with your titles in snippets
In 2021, hell broke loose when Google suddenly stopped showing the entered text in the title tag and instead displayed the text from the H1 on the page. The SEO world was in an uproar: how could Google dare to do this?!
Why do we want to fill in meta data so badly?
I wonder why we are so eager to fill in the title tag and meta description ourselves? Do we think we can do it better than Google? Do we simply enjoy doing it very much? Or do we secretly demand that Google show our input? I recently posted about this on LinkedIn.
Who still manually creates meta data?
As you can read in the LinkedIn post, I suspect it has to do with our need for control: we know exactly how we want it, and Google has to – in our opinion – comply. On one hand, I understand that, but not entirely.
I know very few companies where title tags and meta descriptions are created manually. Especially now that we have the ability to have this done on a large scale by ChatGPT, you see an endless stream of tips on LinkedIn. So my question is: why are we allowed to do it with AI, but why do we go crazy when Google starts adjusting the displayed information? Isn’t that a bit hypocritical?
Is it because we want to stuff a keyword in it?
I suspect that the main reason we want to do this ourselves is because we can stuff a keyword into it. But I wonder if that is a bit outdated in 2023.
We see that Google shows various types of results with different topics within a search query. Just look at the example below. The search query (the keyword) is [‘jeans’], but the topics go in all directions.
If you look closely, you’ll even see a content item titled ’10 types of denim and how to wear them’. So we don’t necessarily have to stuff a keyword in it because Google understands what a text is about. And they should, right? Google claims they can determine if content is helpful or unhelpful, they can also judge if a text adds value to the world. So wouldn’t they understand the core of a piece of content?
Google can do this better than us - I guess -
Shouldn’t we just admit that Google can actually handle this perfectly fine without us? Google’s algorithm utilizes hundreds of AI algorithms. They are truly capable of extracting the essence from a piece of text. They don’t need our help or the inputted keyword to do that. They can evaluate whether a content item is helpful or unhelpful, determine which sources add the most value. Do we still truly believe that we can influence our success by putting a keyword in the title tag?
The AI tools available in the market, including Google’s AI, are good enough to create titles and descriptions to display in search results. And anyway, where do you see descriptions on those last three screenshots? It’s all about the title and the image. Welcome to 2023.
There is no reason why we should still do it
One could argue that Google doesn’t have our best interests in mind and that the descriptions they generate could be better. I can agree with that to some extent. Google primarily focuses on its own interests, which is not surprising. They are in competition with Amazon on one hand and Bing on the other. So Google is mainly thinking about itself.
But the question should be: we can only spend our time once, so do we really prefer to spend it on creating titles and meta descriptions? Seriously? Wouldn’t you rather do something more useful? Working on your reputation or authority (E-A-T)? Identifying the information needs of your potential customers? Creating people-first content? If you ask me, I know what I would prefer to do in a day, and creating titles and meta descriptions is not on that list.
Come on, Google, say we don't have to do it anymore!
So the question is: when will Google say we don’t have to do it anymore? When will the message come, “Forget about it, folks, we can do this much better and take care of it ourselves. Go do something else useful!”
As far as I’m concerned, that message can come tomorrow!
Let's talk about SEO
Do you want to get more out of SEO and get started with People First SEO? I am more than happy to help you with this. Together with me, you will work on creating your ideal customer profile and determine where and when you can reach your audience with the right message. Some content items are suitable for SEO, while others can be used for demand generation and building authority. All the content you create must meet the requirements of the Google Helpful Content Update and contribute to E-E-A-T.