New Title Tag Update by Google
These compiled articles take an in-depth look at recent changes to Google’s Tag updates. Read and be warned there is a lot to take in, LOL!
What changed. Previously, Google often used the query the searcher entered into the search box when formulating the title of the search result snippets. But now, Google said, “generally” it “will no longer” use the query when making these titles. Instead, Google has a new system to generate these titles that the company claims “describe[s] what they care about, regardless of the particular query.”
Google said it is now “making use of text that humans can visually see when they arrive at a web page.” Specifically, Google is now considering “the main visual title or headline shown on a page.” The company explained that this is content that site owners often place within <H1> tags, within other header tags, or which is made large and prominent through style treatments.
Industry coverage. So far, this has been covered in our newsletter a couple of times, and SEO professionals Brodie Clark and Lily Ray covered this in a lot of detail. In addition, I covered on my blog when this happened, which was on August 17, and how it is unrelated to passage-based ranking.
Google is making tweaks. Google wrote the search company is “already making refinements” to the new title system “based on feedback,” and it promises to “keep working to make it even better over time.” Google has heard the feedback and is collecting examples of when these titles do not make sense. Danny Sullivan even said this might lead to more controls within Google Search Console better to manage our tags in the Google search results.
Why we care, if you noticed changes to your click-through rate from the Google search results, it may be related to these changes. Hopefully, those changes are positive — “Our testing shows the change we’ve introduced produces titles that are more readable and preferred by searchers compared to our old system,” the company wrote. Although, we have seen some funny and weird examples of titles over the past week or so.
Why is Google using more than HTML title tag text?
Google may consider using other text in cases when a page’s HTML title tag doesn’t adequately describe what it’s about.
Sullivan says title tags don’t always describe a page well because they can be either:
- Too long
- Stuffed with keywords
- Contain no text or boilerplate text
Some history for Google’s web page snippets
When it comes to snippets on Google, several aspects are known to fluctuate, each of these aspects includes:
- Pixel limit: while the limit for how much content can display within a title tag or meta description can vary a lot based on device type, SEO professionals still follow rough pixel limits (often simplified to just ‘characters’). Google can sometimes make the pixel limit longer or shorter for each metadata element.
- Modification by query: this one has been more noticeable in recent years. Despite our best efforts to write a representative title and description for a page, Google will still likely modify the snippet based on the query. According to a recent study, the question itself is perhaps the most influential, with ~70% of meta descriptions re-written.
- Complete replacement: Google will alter the snippet completely because the snippet does not represent the content well enough. I’ll get into this more shortly, but this is one of the critical impacts I’ll explore within this post.
In recent years, the most noticeable change I can think of relates to the pixel limit of the meta description. I wrote about this change in May of 2018, where Google made meta descriptions much shorter for some queries.
This was on the back of Google making meta descriptions particularly long (roughly twice the length), with there than the opportunity to take up more space. But the lesson there was not to go ahead and update your snippets because Google ended up reverting the change quite quickly.
Aside from this change, metadata on Google can be best described as a feature that “ebbs and flows.” Forever changing, often in a discrete way that is unworthy of mentioning or altering our existing approach.
The original theory was that there had been a widespread change where Google took header tags from a page and replaced them with the title tag. This theory (reported by many) certainly has merit, but there looks to be more complex when digging deeper.
From what I can see, there is no “one factor” involved with this change—instead, an algorithmic approach designed to create better search results.
As an overall result of this update to title tags, it looks like title tag snippets are now shorter. This results from a “readability and relevance algorithm” designed to change how title tags appear in the search results.
An example of this can be seen for the query “wooden furniture Melbourne” when searching Australia. Before the recent title tag update, the snippet included several locations, and the site name was missing due to truncation (going beyond the desktop px limit).
Overall, it is pretty challenging, to sum up, this change from Google in one concise sentence. This is the case with many changes that are algorithmic and multi-faceted. And that’s the way it should be.
In most scenarios, this update to title tags on Google is ignored by SEOs. However, continuing as you were previously, keeping in mind that Google has the ability (as they always did) to re-write and re-restructure your snippets.
For me, this change to title tags represents more of what we’ve experienced in the past for pages but perhaps making the examples of this more apparent and widespread for sites.
As a summary of the findings from the title tag update, here are some concluding comments:
- Google changed how title tags are shown for sites sometime around August 17/18th in 2021. This change was initially identified as related to header tags replaced with the title tag.
- Overall, there has been a decline in the length of title tags (according to Rank Ranger) within Google’s search results on both mobile and desktop. And however, this doesn’t appear to be a result of a pixel limit change.
- For many sites, the title tag is shortened to a clearer content view for the user. In some instances, the new title is taken from header tags, internal links, image alt text, or even made up entirely by Google.
- Across various examples, I see that Google wants to make sure that the brand name is visible within the title tag, so it can be re-written to become well-suited to having the brand name on the end of the snippet. Therefore, Google prefers to use a hyphen and choose this over a vertical bar specified within the HTML.
- Nothing is set in stone here and isn’t particularly “new.” However, there has been a widespread change that has been enough for SEOs to notice and realize that title tags have been re-written for some pages.
With many changes that Google rolls out, Google generally intends not to do unnecessary work for sites. So I wouldn’t go ahead and start changing your title tags for pages just because of this update.
We need to realize that Google won’t always show what we want as snippets in their search results when approaching SEO. But just because they’re not delivering what we have specified, that doesn’t always mean that either party is at fault.
Suppose Google wants to restructure your snippets across different devices and for various queries over time. However, there are more important things for you to worry about: focusing on the stuff that we have direct control over (like improving the content on the page itself).
Every time Google does an update can cause havoc to website marketing and website search engine optimization. We hope that these compiled articles will help you with your search engine optimization.
Article compiled by RapidPage.ca
Article reference links:
- https://searchengineland.com/google-confirms-it-changed-how-it-creates-titles-for-search-result-listings-351506 ↑
- https://www.searchenginejournal.com/google-confirms-update-to-generating-web-page-titles/417306/#close ↑
- https://brodieclark.com/google-title-tag-update/ ↑