Google Update: How Google Changes Your SERPs Titles

Serps

Last week, Google confirmed that they changed the way they generate new webpage titles to appear on their results page (SERP).

Does Google Change My Website’s Title Tag?

Yes. Although you may not have noticed, Google has long experimented with systems that generate new title displays based on user search queries. Since 2012, they’ve altered titles based on search queries to more accurately represent what the user might be looking for.

But instead of generating titles based on user search queries, this new system will generate titles based on the webpage text and header tags.

How often does Google change titles? 

Google has said that they still use content HTML title tags around 80% of the time. That can mean they might use the exact text or they may only take elements of your HTML title to incorporate into a generated title.

Why and when does Google change titles?

Google says the main reasons they generate new titles are because HTML title tags can be:

  • Very long.
  • “Stuffed” with keywords, because creators mistakenly think adding a bunch of words will increase the chances that a page will rank better.
  • Lack title tags entirely or contain repetitive “boilerplate” language. For instance, home pages might simply be called “Home”. In other cases, all pages in a site might be called “Untitled” or simply have the name of the site.

Initial data gathered by the community (check out this helpful Twitter thread) suggests that title length is a key factor. HTML titles below 50 characters stayed the same 99%+ of the time. 

A site’s domain authority (or Page Rank) also appeared to play a role. Titles on sites with a higher domain authority were less likely to be changed than lower DA sites.

When a title was altered, the new title’s content was pulled from the H1 tag more than 50% of the time.

Takeaways

So what does this mean for SEOs and webmasters? 

Well, keeping titles short and sweet appears to be the most important factor in ensuring the title you want is displayed as you intended. 

But secondly, this reinforces the importance of relevant H tags and quality on-page content. For those following SEO best practices, this really shouldn’t mean much. However, if you’d like to check whether your titles are being changed, check out four useful tools here.

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