How to fix Google+ not displaying Social Meta properly / Google+ Snippet Title Bug

 

I’ve had this issues a couple of times now so I’ve decided to put together a post on how to fix it as there must be others out there also experiencing this frustrating situation.

What exactly am I talking about? Let me explain…

The scenario:

  • You have a blog which your posting awesome content to and distributing via your social channels.
  • You added OpenGraph and perhaps even TwitterCard to your articles/pages to get a nice snippet format when you post in these channels.
  • When you share a post via Facebook or Twitter you get the nice rich snippet post format you expect:

Social Meta Data - Facebook's Open Graph and Twitter's Twittercard in action

  • But when you post to Google+ it doesn’t pull in the right information in the snippet (or “+Snippet” as Google calls it). It used to work before, but now whenever you pasted your URL into the “Share what’s new” text box it does this:

    wheres my Google+ Title and Description snippet gone

The bad news here is that when Google+ rolled out the last major layout redesign a few months back, it decided to get rid of the snippet description. Aaron Bradley (aka SEOSkeptic) did a nice write up on this back in June which is certainly worth a read.

But this change doesn’t answer why the snippet title above is showing a brand reference and not the actual post title “New Google Hummingbird Algorithm – High Position Blog”.      

 

Why is Google+ not showing the right snippet title?

According to Google, the process they follow to generate Google+ snippets is as follows:

  1. Check for Schema.org Mark-up
    Look for on-page schema mark-up. If found and valid, use this information for the snippet.
  2. Open Graph Protocol
    If the article mark-up isn’t present, look for Open Graph references and use these for the snippet.
  3. Title & Meta Description
    If it can’t find anything, default to using the page Title, Meta description and look for images on page
  4. Best Guess
    If none of the above are present, Google will try its best to find the most appropriate info from the content.

 

What’s under the hood of our post?

If we take a look at the <head> of our example post you’ll see that we (like many) use Yoast’s WordPress SEO Plugin and have configured this to include both Open Graph and Twitter Cards – Unfortunately, as far as I am aware there is no way to add schema Markup in the plugin (Yoast, is this true?)

Page Source Code - <HEAD>

Ok, so the flaw with our set up (and probably yours) is that we don’t have schema markup in there. That said, I’ve got both OpenGraph implemented and a Page Title and an H1, so why isn’t the fallback logic working on the title?

How come Google’s managed to find the image but is using “High Position” as the title?  Is it pulling the snippet title from the domain name (doubt it), general domain/brand reference data (highly doubt it), the publisher reference to our brand Google+ page (more than likely)?

 

What does the Structured Data Testing Tool say?

The first thought was to see what Google’s Structured Data/Rich Snippet Tool finds on the page and see what the preview shows. I know the preview is of the SERP listing, not the Google+ Snippet (something to add Google?), but at least this will test the page title and meta description is being processed and whether any other structured data is being found on the page, right?

As expected, the preview shows the following:

SERP Authorship Listing Screenshot

It also confirms valid authorship and publisher references.

Authorship and Publisher Verification Notice (Google Webmaster Tools)

 

 

 

The OG and TwitterCard Meta tag attributes also show up as a valid data-object.

Google Webmaster Tools Data Object Verification

So, why is it not using the expected fall back steps? I’m afraid I don’t know… Is it a bug, Is it something I’m missing?

I don’t know the cause, but I do know a solution to this problem. Simply incorporate the Article Schema in your pages as well as the OG and Twitter Card and that should solve the problem. In both occasions I’ve tested this (both on wordpress and non-wordpress sites), it’s worked fine.

Here’s an example of the Article schema if you want to place your definitions in the <head>:

<!– Update your html tag to include the itemscope and itemtype attributes. –>
<html itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/Article”>

<!– Add the following three tags inside head. –>
<meta itemprop=”name” content=”#YOUR TITLE GOES HERE#” />
<meta itemprop=”description” content=”#YOUR DESCRIPTION GOES HERE – NOTE, IT WONT SHOW UP IN THE G+  SNIPPET#” />
<meta itemprop=”image” content=”#IMAGE URL GOES HERE#” />

Alternatively you can put it directly into the body, like so:

<!– Update your html tag to include the itemscope and itemtype attributes. –>
<html itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/Article”>

<!– Add the following three tags to your body. –>
<span itemprop=”name”>YOUR TITLE GOES HERE</span>
<span itemprop=”description”>YOUR DESCRIPTION GOES HERE – NOTE, IT WONT SHOW UP IN THE G+  SNIPPET</span>
<img itemprop=”image” src=”# IMAGE URL GOES HERE #” />

More info on Schema’s Article

Go here to find Google’s guide on how to implement snippets or use their snippet generator tool. For more information on the schema mark-up itself, go here.

 

HEADS-UP : Watch out for Google+ Snippet Caching?

An interesting thing I came across whilst fixing this a few months back was that Google must cache URL snippet data the first time someone posts a link to Google+. When I added the Article code and then attempted to resubmit again, it would show the original incomplete snippet – even when I posted via another machine and G+ account, so I’m assuming server side caching must occur at some point. Bear this in mind when you’re pulling your hair out having added the schema mark-up and attempting to re-publish a post again.

You can get past the caching problem by appending ?xyz to the end of the URL you submit – just watch out for the duplication this could cause.

Have you had problems with your G+ Snippets?

If you’ve experienced this problem or have questions on how to resolve it, suggestions on what the original cause is, views on the snippets themselves then please leave a comment below!

 

26 thoughts on “How to fix Google+ not displaying Social Meta properly / Google+ Snippet Title Bug

  1. Hi, I have a prob, I can’t understand how to fix. all of my site links title are not displaying title but display author name in google plus share. Please help me

  2. I’ve had a go at your suggestion of pasting the article itemprop on the html tag, as well as the three lines of schema declarations within the head, but it’s still not carrying across the post’s actual title.

    In the past I worked out it was where schema definitions were being used for the actual company, so for example, we have schema’d the company name and address in the footer, site wide and this was what Google+ was pulling the undesired title from.

    However, I’m now not sure whether G+ is showing the first cached snippet, despite having tried the ?xyz on the end of the URL and different logins/machines.

    • Hi Ashley, sounds like you having exact the same problem we had.

      There definitely appears to be some form of Brand fallback but interesting that the Article markup and the ?xyz cache resolve hasn’t fixed the issue. Have you tested the page’s markup using Google’s Rich Snippet tool? Was the schema reference you refer to the LocalBusiness markup by any chance?

      • Hi,

        After Google today updated how they present snippets, I hoped it might have remedied the above scenario.

        Unfortunately not… at least not for WordPress blog posts. Main site pages (which yes, do use the schema.org/localbusiness markup) display the titles properly now. But I’m still a little unsure why article posts won’t (they too use the localbusiness schema declaration) but we only get the company name.

        When you copy the hyperlink into the rich snippet testing tool the article markup is there, yet G+ won’t pull it through!! Annoying!

  3. I’m not comfortable with code snippets (they never seem to work for me) and this situation is no different. I’m using Genesis so I have easy access to adding a code snippet to the header. Problem is, just copying and pasting what you have here doesn’t work (duh). I’m not sure exactly what I need to do or how to change this to make it work for me. For example, when you say YOUR TITLE GOES HERE, are you referring to the title of the page? or the site? And if I’m adding this code to my header (which affects EVERY page on my site) how the heck would I put the page title there? Same for page description and image description. It seems like this would output some generic stuff for my site rather than the specifics of a particular page or post?

    • Hi Tea,

      Your right, pasting the code above will not work I’m afraid. Each property has to be customised to the page it is being output to.

      For example,

      itemprop=”name” – Should be the Page Title of that particular page.

      itemprop=”description” – Should be a description of the page (traditionally the page’s META description).

      itemprop=”image” – Should be the image you would like to associate with the page.

      I haven’t worked with Genesis myself so i cannot give you a specific solution for this but you probably want to explore setting up a conditional statement that only outputs the schema for “Article” pages.

      Hope this helps.

      Tom

  4. It appears that Google+ is taking your local business schema mark up and using that to name your post. I suppose if you didn’t care about local search results you could remove the local business mark up and it would then default to your Opengraph data, instead of adding article schema.

  5. Hi Tom Jepson thanks for your ultimate post. We successfully solved our problem by reading your post. We unfortunately added this meta tag inside html . Thus, we seemed only website title when sharing on Google+. But after reading your post now we removed that unwanted tag from our template. So now our posts full titles are also displaying on Google+.

  6. Hi Tom, we have schema markup on our blog posts, but just recently added other schema local markups – now google+ is only bringing in the name of our company instead of the title of the article we want to share. Have you seen this happen before? My developers are looking into it, but it was an interesting thing I noticed in the past few weeks.

    • Hi Caitlin,

      As Sam mentioned in his comment above, i think the local business schema definition is what is causing of your (and our) issue. Looks like a glitch in the system that still hasn’t been fixed.

      My advise would be to go with the article mark up if you have the ability to this as this way you retain everything and it’ll work how you would expect too!

      Good luck and let us know how you get on.

      Regards,

      Tom

  7. Hi Tom,

    I have a problem with sharing on Google+. When I try to share a post, it always displays my author icon and description (schema.org/person) and not my post thumbnail, even though structured data on google webmasters for URL’s of my posts shows the right image and description.
    When I enter ?xyz at the end of my post URL, Google+ shows the right thumbnail and title. So, I thoguht it was a caching problem. Then I published a new post, tried to share it, and it again has shown my author icon and my bio. And when I try to share it again with ?xyz, then it’s all ok.

    Here is my website: http://www.webdesignerhints.com/

    I am using wordpress. I even tried to deactivate all of my plugins (even SEO and caching plugin) but it remained the same.

    Please help me, I am pulling my hair out with this.

    • Hi Dailbor,

      I’ve had a look through the markup on the page and think i can see the reason why the author image is being used in this instance.

      If you look at the source code of the image in your author bio you’ll see that this is marked up with: itemprop=”image”. It is this that is telling Google its the right image for the post.

      So, in effect Google is doing what its be told so to speak.

      To fix this I’d review your bio and strip that definition out of that image and assign it to the main post image.

      It’s very interesting that the ?xyz fixes the problem as in this instance it isn’t a caching issue…

      Let us know how you get on!

      Tom

  8. Hi Tom
    I am a new blogger.
    I have the same problem as Dalibor. (Previous comment).
    Please, give me tips that are applicable because I do not understand a lot of the html code.
    Thank you.

    Nove
    novehasanah[dot]blogspot[dot]com

  9. Hi Tom, Need help urgently !!!

    Here is my site url- “http://mindjuicedev.azurewebsites.net/coachDetails.aspx?id=27″. It has twitter, og & general tags with “Article” schema (also tried with other), but no luck! It doesn’t show “description”.

    I have found one link “http://www.seoskeptic.com/google-quietly-removes-descriptions-from-snippets/” that mentioned “google+ has replaced descriptions with the page URL” & description can be shown with interactive post.

    But if you share “http://www.iacquire.com/blog/18-meta-tags-every-webpage-should-have-in-2013″ this link normally without interactive post it shows the description. how? From the source it has been found that it has twitter, og & general tags which are also present in my site. Any idea, or I missed something? Note: I do not put the “canonical” link. Is it must ?

    One more thing, how to clear share cache forcefully for facebook, twitter, linkedIn & google+. I tried all of the their developer tools, but doesn’t clear, they so the cached data. Only if you shorten url with “https://bitly.com/shorten/” then it works for Facebook only, but there should be some way…

    Regards.

    • Hi Faroque, sorry about the delayed reply….

      I checked the URL you supplied but it requires authentication so I haven’t been able to take a look at it for you I’m afraid.

      In relation to the Description in Google+, I have good news for you, thankfully Google decided to bring descriptions back in early April. So if you follow the instructions above you should now see this again.

      With the caching side of things, the caching occurs on Google’s side and therefore it won’t matter what you clear on your browser, it won’t change what they have stored. The only way it changes is if it expires (I have no idea on how long it is stored on) or if you change the URL – that’s the reason why your bit.ly link worked, essentially you gave Google a different URL.

      All the best!

      Tom

  10. Hi Tom,

    I’ve been suffering from the snippet caching a number of times. Your tip really helped me out. I thought I was going mad!!! I haven’t cried F*** at my computer this much in months. Thanks for restoring verbal equilibrium to my homestead. Cheers!!

    • Hi Sudesh,

      The rich snippet tool is picking it up the “name” correctly, however, looking at the source code i noticed a malformed link in the main h1 tag that has a span with itemprop=”name” in it. Its probably worth fixing this first. FYI you are also missing the “article” reference in the opening HTML tag which could be causing problems.

      <html itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Article">

      The frustrating thing here Sudesh is that Google should have used the Open Graph definition or at least the Title and Meta description as fall back if it wasn’t able to process the Aritcle schema!

      My advise would be to remove the inline article mark up you have at the moment and use the version instead (follow the guidelines here and select Marup location as )

      Personally i prefer using this method over the inline/body version as its a pain to define the description, particularly when using something like wordpress.

      Good luck in getting it sorted and let us know if you learn anything new in the process!

      All the best,

      Tom

  11. Hi thanks for your post. I am now great at html so not sure if I understand the above. I just wanted to comment that for a long time I was not getting a large image when sharing from blogspot to google+, I was getting a small image but was getting the post title and description. I was told I had amended my template too much and blogger was basically not happy so I went back to defaul settings and began again. Now I am getting a larger image and title but no description, so is this going to be common for most people now? OR can I do something to get my description back? I do have my search description on Facebook funnily enough.

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