There has been a lot of drama around the title tag this past week in the world of Google and SEO. What does everything mean and how should you approach it in terms of y0ur SEO strategy?
What is a Title Tag?
Your title tag is a meta tag for any page of your website. It is also typically, but not always, the text that shows up in Google and other search engine results as the clickable link to go to the web page. It is typically best practice to sum up the most important aspects of your page in your title tag, and also remember that you are trying to entice a searcher to click on your results. It is often considered one of the fundamentals of SEO to properly set up your title tags.
What Happened at Google Last Week (August 2021)?
The industry suddenly noted that Google was presenting different text as the clickable link in search results. Rather than the title tag that the site owner had given, they were presenting paragraph headings, URLs, snippets from pages, and even alt text as the clickable link. This wasn’t always the case but began happening much more often than in the past.
Why Did Everyone Get Nervous?
As mentioned before, the title tag is often a fundamental piece of an SEO plan. It is also considered a strong ranking factor. When they stop being presented the same way, it not only raises eyebrows in terms of losing control of your message and ability to try to entice people to click on results but also concerns those about whether there would be major shifts in the rankings if title tags suddenly carried less weight.
What Has Happened So Far?
Google acknowledged there were some errors in the rollout and some things got a little sloppy after the industry presented many examples where it seemed to go wrong. Google has always said they have the power to change meta tag presentation to best match the search query, and this is just further down that road. We are just used to seeing our title tags hold in the search results. It appears we reached a point where this will happen less and less. From Google’s point of view, they are helping site owners by presenting a clickable link in the results that best match the search query. It seems we are still in flux to some degree as to how this initial rollout should go but should expect more down the road.
On August 30, Search Engine Roundtable published a SEMRush study showing that about 77% of title tags were replaced, adn about 75% of those replacements used the H1 from the page. There have definitely been documented mistakes where they have caught other tags or even content from other pages showing up in the search results.
What Should You Do?
Keep writing good content for your users. Whatever value the title tag has as a ranking factor, it was likely decreasing anyway, and Google is just getting better at evaluating the full content for ranking and less dependent on basic things like a title tag. I would say it is still a good idea to efficiently write your title tags to best represent what your page is about, but the priority is good content that provides a solution for your customer or the searcher. 60 characters of a title tag should never make up for horrible content. The H1 that Google seems to be predominantly replacing the title with in search results is something that is more often written for the reader and not the search engine and is also not as prone to have keyword stuffing. In the end, maybe some sites that were ranking with bad content but well “aimed” titles may see less success, but you should be ahead of that curve by now anyway if you have been paying attention.
If you need someone to pay attention to this stuff so you don’t have to, give us a call and get an SEO plan going for y0ur business success. If you want to read a more in-depth analysis of what has been going on, please see some of the articles below.
- When it first popped up: https://www.searchenginejournal.com/google-is-rewriting-title-tags-in-serps/416793/
- Lily Ray’s Well Written Overview: https://www.amsivedigital.com/insights/news/is-google-showing-different-organic-titles-in-august-2021/
- Google Responds to Feedback: https://www.seroundtable.com/google-hears-title-snippet-feedback-improvement-31963.html
- Danny Sullivan of Google Chimes In: https://www.searchenginejournal.com/googles-danny-sullivan-wants-to-fix-page-title-rewrites/417091/#close
- SEMRush Study Shows Largely Replaced by H1: https://www.seroundtable.com/semrush-data-titles-google-32004.html