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Why Google Is Changing Your SEO Page Titles

Have you noticed some of your title tags are different to the ones you wrote?

Well, unless your SEO page titles have matched up to Google’s expectations, you’ll probably find some of them will have been changed to meet the search engine’s new requirements.

In fact, a recent research report showed that Google has rewritten over 60% of titles, so it’s highly likely some of your tags will have been affected.  The study from Zyppy.com analysed close to 90 000 title tags across 2370 sites around the world and found that Google rewrote 61.6% of the titles.

Where Can I See My Title Tag?

If you open up your website and look at the top of your browser bar, you can see your title tag here in the tab. In many content management systems this is often called an SEO Title. This is where you can add the keywords you would like to rank for.

On the Google Search Results, you can see your title tag here. You would need to search for your business name or different keywords you rank for to see what comes up for your website.

Why Are The Page Titles Being Rewritten?

In 2021, Google announced that they were going to make changes to the titles that it shows in its search results in order to improve the descriptions of the page.  Its system had determined that many pages didn’t even have titles and some were badly constructed or misleading.

Google had always made adjustments to titles, but these had generally been minor.  Following the update, there was a flurry of activity by the search engine giant but it now claims that original title tags are now being used around 87% of the time, up from 80% a short while ago.

Google’s stated intention is to make information universally accessible and useful – and it’s constantly investigating ways of improving the user’s search experience.  While you might have spent hours crafting what you think are perfect title tags, if they don’t fit into what Google thinks is best, you’ll find adjustments have been made.

But if the outcome is an improved title tag which gives searchers the best information about a page, it’s a win for them and it’s a win for website owners.  In a perfect world, Google’s rewrite should actually increase your chances of a click-through.

The Reasons Behind The Changes

Several scenarios prompted the rewrites, including:

  • When a title is too long or too short
  • When there is insufficient or inaccurate information
  • When the title is obsolete
  • When the same title is used for multiple pages
  • When the same keyword is used more than once
  • Overuse of brand names
  • When title separators are used, such as dashes or pipes
  • When [brackets] or (parentheses) are used

Google also encouraged people to focus on creating great HTML title elements as those were what they used the most.  Zippy’s research confirmed this was the case and found that by matching the H1 to the title, the degree of rewriting was often dramatically reduced.

What Do SEO Experts Say About Google’s Changes?

Some SEO experts say that the titles had been improved while others have been less impressed, calling for an ‘opt-out’ option.  While I haven’t seen dramatic changes made to my clients’ tags, I do think it is important that industry leaders in the field of SEO continue to provide Google with feedback on the situation so that improvements can be made where necessary.

A Few Final Tips For Writing Google-Friendly Title Tags

It’s not possible to stop Google from rewriting your tags, but there are things you can do to reduce the likelihood of it happening.

Any SEO specialist worth their salt knows that page titles have a considerable impact on click-through rates.  Giving the user the right information to help them make a decision about whether a page is worth visiting is crucial, plus it’s important to do the right thing by Google.

My tips for writing for writing Google-friendly title tags are:

  • Aim for a tag length between 50 and 60 characters
  • Use parentheses rather than brackets to emphasise text
  • Match your H1 tag to your title
  • Only use your keyword phrase once

Karen Dauncey

Karen Dauncey has been working in SEO since 2003. She specialises in helping businesses get found online through Google using Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

Karen's wealth of SEO knowledge and practical digital marketing experience comes from running her own SEO and Google Ads agency, Blue Cherry Online Marketing since 2008. Karen has optimised over 1000 websites, managed millions of dollars' worth of spend on Google Ads and has a solid understanding of the constantly shifting industry of digital marketing and SEO. This gives her a unique advantage when it comes to being able to recommend the right online marketing strategies for your business.

She is the founder and creator of The SEO School an online SEO Course to help teach business owners how to do their own SEO. She regularly delivers educational programs for both Local, State and Federal Government and was an advisor for the ASBAS Digital Solutions Program. Karen’s passion and commitment to help small business owners get found online is the driving force behind her online school, making SEO advice accessible to all with free resources and online courses.

Karen has attended search engine conferences in London, Stockholm, Adelaide and Sydney, and was also invited to attend a pilot Business Coaching Course at Google’s Head Office. She has a Diploma in Marketing from the Chartered Institute of Marketing in the UK.

She is also the co-owner of the Digital Experts Directory, an online directory for female serviced-based businesses to promote their business (with a great backlink for SEO).

To keep up to date with the latest in SEO, join her Facebook group The SEO School Community or follow her on Facebook
or LinkedIn.

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