Around August 17th, Google started a new system of generating titles for pages displayed in their search results.
Historically, in Google’s search results, they would display what you place in your HTML title tag as the title (big blue copy) and what you place in your meta description tag as the description (smaller black copy underneath the title). They may have updated your title and/or description based on the specific query if they thought it better served the user. The description is much more likely to have changed than the title. If the title changed, it is most likely just truncated.
Now they have introduced a new system for generating and displaying titles.
How has Google changed how they will display titles?
- Google will further their dependence on page text
- Google generally will not take the specific query into account
Google has started to pull in the main headline shown on the page (often the H1 tag or an H2) as the title displayed for some pages.
Other text on the page, including the anchor text of a link pointing to the page from another page, may be included in the displayed title.
According to Google, “Before this, titles might change based on the query issued. This generally will no longer happen with our new system. This is because we think our new system is producing titles that work better for documents overall, to describe what they are about, regardless of the particular query.”
Learn more about the title display change on Google’s blog here.
Why has Google changed how they will display titles?
The HTML title tag does not always describe the page properly to a user.
Sometimes the title tag is autogenerated which can lead to very long article title tags or nondescript “Home” or “Untitled” title tags.
However, it is not only these extreme cases being updated
What is the impact of the title update?
Google said the HTML title tag will still be used more than 80% of the time.
While this update was intended to give the user the most relevant description of the page, there have been some initial bugs – like updating the White House’s own page to display President Joe Biden as Vice President.
Great job with that title rewrite for the POTUS, Google. pic.twitter.com/pwIhcekV2h
— Mark Williams-Cook = 🅼🅰🆁🅺 🅲🅾🅾🅺 (@thetafferboy) August 19, 2021
What are clients seeing?
There have been a few clients with title updates. The 80% rule reflects what we are seeing.
We have only seen titles change from what we have in the HTML title tag to what is in the H1 with the branding added at the end.
No clients have had misleading information appear in a title. Although, we have had “spammy” appearing titles due to the title being displayed with all lowercase letters. This was because the H1 was coded without casing in mind since the styling of the H1 resulted in an all-caps headline.
What actions need to be taken?
If your SEO agency has not already taken care of it, you should:
1. See how your titles are currently being displayed
Type, “site:YourDomain.com” into Google to see your results.
2. Optimize your H1 tags to properly summarize the page
Hopefully this has already been completed, or it may be a good time to refresh these.
3. Ensure your heading tags are coded to match your brand’s case style
If your heading tags are styled to display in all caps or all lowercase, make sure within the code they are typed in the case style you would like displayed in search results (title case, sentence case, etc.)
Have questions? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.