Google is Rewriting Title Tags in SERPs

Credit: Reuters

Introduction

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.

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.

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.

 

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