Google title tag rewiting

Google is Rewriting Title Tags in SERPs

There have been changes to the SERPs where Google replaces title tags with other relevant text from a webpage. 

Title tags on some search results pages are being rewritten by Google, with the H1 tag being used in place of the original text in many cases.

SEOs started taking notice of this on August 16, as evidenced by tweets mentioning a “massive” title rewrite on Google.

It’s well-known that Google tweaks SERP titles by adding a business’s name at the end. As a result, Google’s titles are being replaced with different text. A “massive” title rewrite on Google was mentioned in several tweets on August 16.

To date, it’s unclear how widespread title rewrites are, but they’re familiar enough that multiple SEOs have already noticed them.

The majority of these rewrites appear to be based on text from H1 tags. While Google has replaced a page title with anchor text from an internal link, Lily Ray notes that she’s seen it happen before.

Mayank Parmar points out that Google sometimes inserts dates into titles: 

Theoretically, Google could use any relevant text from a page as the title in SERPs. The same is true for meta descriptions, as Google can dynamically adjust the description in search snippets to match the searcher’s query better.

However, according to Brodie Clark, this update isn’t confined to just one or two factors. For example, a page’s title could instead be generated by Google’s algorithm, according to his theory:

As a result, according to the researcher, Google has replaced a title with text from another page of a website. As far as the search engine is concerned, there appears to be no limit to where it can pull title text from. 

Furthermore, Clark points out that when Google changes a title, the new version is usually shorter than the original. Thus, an attempt to improve the readability and relevance of a result can get inferred.

The search engine giant should alert SEOs as soon as possible if this is anything more than a live test. On Friday’s Q&A with Google’s John Mueller, I’ll bet there will be at least a few questions about this.

Brodie Clark suggests that this update isn’t limited to one or two factors. Rather, he hypothesises Google can algorithmically create any text to use as a page’s title:

“From what I can see, there is no “one factor” involved with this change, with an algorithmic approach designed to create better titles in Google’s search results as a whole. Whether that be taking the new title from a header tag or effectively pulling it out of thin air.”

He goes on to present evidence of Google replacing a title with text found on another page of a website. There’s apparently no limit to where the search engine may pull in title text from.

SEOs started taking notice of this on August 16, as evidenced by tweets mentioning a “massive” title rewrite on Google.

What do all these mean for the SEOs? 

We can’t draw any conclusions about Google rewriting title tags at this point, but it’s possible.

The company has a history of running A/B tests on live search results, so it’s possible that what we see now will be back to normal shortly.

However, we may be witnessing the beginning of a long-term shift. Think about it: If titles in search snippets continue to be handled this way by Google, it could be suitable for websites.

As far as I can tell, replacing titles is to improve the relevancy of the results for users. Then a more relevant title might be more compelling.

If you’re wondering how concerned you should be about this update, take a look at Mueller’s comments. Although he acknowledges the importance of titles, he believes they are not worth stressing over:

No reports of pages with rewritten titles falling in the rankings have been made to my knowledge. The fact that this change won’t complicate SEOs’ jobs is a good sign.

Rewriting Title Tags

Rewriting Title Tags is something that you cannot avoid anymore if you want to get good ranking in Google. It has become more evident by the day that Google is constantly changing their algorithm with every change in algorithm.

If you do not have time to check for breaking changes on your website, you better opt for the services of an expert who can make a thorough analysis of your site and create a “Rewriting Title Tag” file.

If Google is Changing Your Title, You Probably Need to Rewrite It

In addition to changing your title because it doesn’t follow the best practices above, Google can also change your title to better match search intent for specific queries:

“Sometimes, even pages with well-formulated, concise, descriptive titles will end up with different titles in our search results to better indicate their relevance to the query. When we know the user’s query, we can often find alternative text from a page that better explains why that result is relevant.”

The problem with that approach is that Google selecting content from the page to display as a title for you doesn’t always lead to the most professional-looking SEO titles. I’ve seen cases where auto-generated titles appear in all-lowercase, for example, which doesn’t necessarily encourage people to click.

Plus, Google’s Gary Illyes recently said that “if Google is rewriting your titles, that is a sign you should work on rewriting those titles.”

If you notice that Google is displaying a different title than the one you’ve specified—and you’re following all of the title tag best practices—it’s probably worth checking Google Search Console to see what keywords you’re ranking well for and earning clicks with. Then, enter your best-performing keywords into Google Search and see what displays.

Do the titles of the other higher-ranking posts seem to satisfy a different intent than yours? If so, it might be worth writing your own custom title that caters better to search intent to reduce the likelihood of Google changing your title going forward.

Is Google choosing an all-lowercase keyword from your content to display in the SERPs? If so, you might need to rewrite your title to include your target keyword.

By taking the time to investigate what Google is displaying to users when they see your content in the SERPs, you’ll limit Google’s need to find titles for your content on its own—and you’ll probably increase your click-through rates and rankings in the process.

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Matthew Giannelis

Secondary editor and executive officer at Tech Business News. Contracting as an IT support engineer for 20 years Matthew has a passion for sharing his knowledge of the technology industry.

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