pageoneresults - 8:12 pm on Feb 22, 2011 (gmt 0)
I cannot find WHERE the text is coming from. It's not ODP or YDIR or any sentence on my god damn home page.
Google have stated that they may use inbound anchor text and append titles that are less than descriptive for their algo. Google say...
Google's creation of sites' 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.
There is a way to control this to some degree. Your on page content is going to be the biggest determining factor as to what Google may "grab" in a guessing scenario. Yes, it's a guessing game for them because they have to figure out what the document is about without a good descriptive <title> reference.
So the next best thing for them is the META Description. Shorter descriptions are not going to perform as well as longer descriptions. They need to be written using an Inverted Pyramid Writing approach so that you are targeting the broadest range of potential keyword combinations that are relevant to the search query.
If you've got a 8 character branded title, a 70 character short description, then the next best thing for a machine algo is the content that appears directly after the <body> element. This is where proper semantic structure comes into play and the first thing I always suggest is an <h1> where it naturally belongs, at the beginning of the content and/or section it is relevant to. You can have multiple <h1> per document. Source Ordered Content is an excellent way to present your most important content first for indexing.
If Google is abusing your titles to that degree, my first assumption would be that the content at the destination is not sending a strong enough relevancy signal. When you have Google using external inbound anchor text and appending it to your title, then you have challenges. Yes, I agree, Google should leave well enough alone. But, they don't. This is mostly to the searcher's advantage, but in this case it appears to lower your CTR.
Let's discuss CTR, Click Through Rate. I would imagine that many folks will click on a non descriptive title and/or description just to see what lies at the destination therefore improving CTR. But, I would also expect a higher bounce rate from those same folks hitting their back button as it wasn't what they expected.
Google's algo takes the site's weaknesses and tries to assist the searcher in identifying the destination. Maybe they noticed that a higher CTR also led to a higher Bounce Rate? So, to counter that, they include more information about the destination based on what they know. You would think that would help in most instances?
You have a lot of control over the outcome here. Either you take that control or Google will. Or, a sneaky competitor just might do it and anchor-jack you. ;)