In the recent Webmaster Help video, Google's Head of Search Spam, Matt Cutts, explains when does Google reject your title tag and use something else for the snippet title. Cutts also throws light on what are the factors that Google takes into consideration when choosing titles for search results.
In the video Matt answers two related questions posted by two different users. The first question was:
“What criteria does Google use to change the <title> it shows in the SERPs depending on the query? Does schema influence that? Maybe headings (h1, h2…) have more weight?”
The second question posed was:
“Why Google search results doesn't show the current meta title of webpage? Instead of meta title search results show H1 tag from HTML page?”
According to Matt, whenever Google tries to choose which title to show in the search results, it is looking for a concise description of the page that is also relevant to the query. The criteria that Google uses are:
- Something that is relatively short
- Have a good description of the page and ideally the site that the page is on.
- It is relevant to the query somehow
Matt says that if your existing HTML title fits in these criteria than the default would be to use your title. If your title doesn't match these, the URL might have poor click through rates. In such a case Google goes a little deeper and looks at:
- The content on your page
- Links that point to your page
- Or the open directory project
In each of these cases Google is looking for the best title that would help users access what they are looking for. Matt says that if you want to control the title that is shown, you can completely control it but all you have to do is try to anticipate what the user is going to type. Apart from this, you should also ensure that your title reflects not only something about that query or the page that you are on but also gives some context so that the user knows what they are going to get when they click on it.Matt Cutts on How Google Chooses Page Title Tags for Search Results!,