Google is altering the appearance of a site's title as it appears in the SERPs. And SEOs are getting frustrated.
Complaints about Google ignoring title tags have appeared on websites and in forums in recent days.
Google's Stance on the Title Tag
Seems Google's Matt Cutts is telling SEOs: "We reserve the right to try to figure out what's a better title." Yes, he actually did say that:
Google's John Mueller also says:
In general, when we run across titles that appear to be sub-optimal, we may choose to rewrite them in the search results. This could happen when the titles are particularly short, shared across large parts of your site or appear to be mostly a collection of keywords. One thing you can do to help prevent this is to make sure that your titles and descriptions are relevant, unique and compelling, without being "stuffed" with too much boilerplate text across your site.
And Google says:
"Make sure that each page on your site has a useful and descriptive page title (contained within the title tags). If a title tag is missing, or if the same title tag is used for many different pages, Google may use other text we find on the page. The HTML suggestions page in Webmaster Tools lists pages where Google has detected missing or problematic title tags. (To see this page, click Diagnostics in the left-hand menu of the site Dashboard. Then click HTML suggestions.)"
Evidence of Changed Title Tags
SEO.com posted an example where a site with a title tag of "Forex Trading Strategies | Forex System | Forex Trading Course" appeared in the SERPs as "Forex trading strategy."
Looking at the site's code, the term "Forex Trading Strategy" appears twice: in the meta description and the H1 tag.
Bill Hartzer also posted about this, noting that his post with the title tag "Search Engine Optimization with SEOette.com: Track Your Google Rankings | Bill Hartzer " appeared in Google's SERP as "Track Your Google Rankings."
Looking at his code, "track your Google rankings" is used as anchor text for an outbound link. Is it possible Google pulled it from there, or did they just ignore the text after the colon due to the length of the title?
Why Are Titles Different in Google's SERPs?
How is Google generating this new title? That's what some can't figure out.
The query seems to be the biggest influence on the altered SERP title, according to the discussion.
Also seems that inbound link anchor text can be used to generate the title.
Why is Google Doing This?
Google's treatment of the title tag brings up a number of good points worth discussion, such as:
- Should Google be doing this?
- Will Google's chosen title for your site result in less clicks?
- Will this hurt your branding efforts?
- Is this artificial intelligence gone bad?
- Who is Google to decide what is descriptive enough for users?
What do you think?