Google Confirmed Titles Did Change To Not Use The Query

A week after Google made a change to the titles it produces in its search results, the search company confirmed it actually did make these changes. I mean, why didn’t Google just write about it when they first noticed it, did they think we wouldn’t notice?

Google said “last week, we introduced a new system of generating titles for web pages.” Yea, we first covered this title change a week ago last Tuesday, August 17th. Google did confirm the changes on Twitter but only after the SEO community was like, whoa – what did you do to my titles Google?

I then emailed some questions to Google a few days ago, Google’s Danny Sullivan answered all of them in this official blog post.

In any event, there are few super interesting things that Google said about this change that I wanted to highlight.

Not Using Queries

The biggest change, I think here, is that Google said it generally will not be using the searcher’s query – what the searcher entered into the search box – to produce the title for the search result. Google wrote “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.”

The title Google uses for your page now won’t be dynamic based on the query – which is a big change.

Titles Still Important

Google said for 80% of the titles they use in the search results, those are pulled from the HTML title tag still. The other 20% may be from the header tags or other areas of the visible content on the page. Google said “Of all the ways we generate titles, content from HTML title tags is still by far the most likely used, more than 80% of the time.”

So don’t stop making Google titles.

Headers Are More Important Now

When that listing is part of the 20%, it seems like Google is putting more emphasis on the header tags, H1s, H2s, etc. Google said “We consider the main visual title or headline shown on a page, content that site owners often place within H1 tags, within other header tags, or which is made large and prominent through the use of style treatments.”

Links Still May Be Used

Sometimes we’ve seen Google use anchor text links for titles over the years. Google said that can still happen, “other text contained in the page might be considered, as might be text within links that point at pages.”

But again, 80% of the time, it will be the title tag.

Google Will Improve

If this week showed anything, it showed that this Google change produced some embarrassing titles. Google is aware of it, like I covered earlier this week, and even said in this blog post it will make more changes and has already made changes, to improve this. Google wrote “already making refinements to our new system based on feedback, and we’ll keep working to make it even better over time.”

If you see examples of issues, report them to the help forum over here. There is no special form to send examples to:

New Titles Are Better

That being said, Google said the search team tested this new method of producing titles and the results showed big improvements, enough to launch it. Google said “Our testing shows the change we’ve introduced produces titles that are more readable and preferred by searchers compared to our old system.” I guess Google will keep improving it based on the examples we showed them.

Titles Can Change Fast

Danny Sullivan added that the titles Google uses can react fast to changes you make on your page. So if you update your content, Google then recrawls that page, Google may update the title it uses in the search results in a fairly dynamic manner.

Why The Change?

Google said that sometimes the HTML title tags do not describe the page in the best way, Google wrote. “HTML title tags don’t always describe a page well. In particular, title tags can sometimes be, very long, stuffed with keywords and lack title tags entirely or contain repetitive “boilerplate” language.”

Now, boilerplate is not having a title tag that is in this format [unique content about the page] – followed by the company name. Danny Sullivan said that here:

So make sure to not just focus on having good actionable HTML titles but also great headers and content on your page.

Forum discussion at Twitter.

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