Google has made a tweak on August 17th or 18th that has resulted in a complete rewrite of the titles. While it was common to see Google making minor changes to the title, the complete title rewrites didn’t go well with the SEO community.
Exactly after a month, on September 17, 2021, Google has further refined its title system, based on the feedback from the community.
Google Rewrites Title
SERP titles are important for understanding the main context of the search result. While the single title provided in the HTML has not always been relevant, historically, Google has gone beyond the HTML title element and generated page titles to display in search results, intending to provide useful results. Sometimes, the titles were even generated based on the user’s search query.
With the new system introduced in August 2021, the rewrites based on search queries will no longer happen. Instead, Google aimed at using text that is visually available on the page, including H1, other header tags, and other visually large & prominent content.
Why This Update?
Google considers rewriting titles, rather than using the provided HTML title, as in many cases, the titles fall in one of the below-listed categories:
- Very Long: The recommended length of the title is 60 characters with a pixel limit of 580px. So titles longer than the limit are usually truncated and may not provide the complete context of the search result.
- Keywords Stuffed: While it’s a misconception to include more keywords in the title for more ranking opportunities, it is less likely to be useful for searchers.
- Boilerplate Titles: Using templates and repeated words in title elements have made the process of publishing easier. But there are instances where the same title is reused in numerous pages with no unique content.
- Disallowed pages: When you accidentally disallow pages using robots.txt & they happen to be indexed due to external sites linking to the page. Since Google does not have access to the page, they’ll likely use anchor text as titles.
- Brand name: Sometimes using brand names in titles will look repetitive & hurts readability. Hence Google would try to position the brand names better for improving readability.
In addition to the above cases, Google may detect the alternative text on the page that seems to be more relevant to the page and prefers to use the alternative text over the provided. If you feel the provided title is a better fit over the alternative title, you can let Google know through the Search Help Community.
What’s Next — Dealing With This Update
When the update was initially rolled out, Google has been using the title element only in 80% of the cases. Based on the community’s feedback, Google now shows the title in 87% of the cases and sees a positive result since the rollout of this update.
Ultimately, the update is for a better experience of users in search results, and webmasters need not be concerned about its ranking impacts. Even Google’s Danny Sullivan has confirmed this — title rewrites are only a display change (a change that happens after the pages are ranked).
There aren't multiple title tags. A page has only one title tag. We consider title tags along with all types of other content for ranking purposes. Separately from that is how we may display content. That happens after ranking.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) August 26, 2021
So your HTML title still holds its SEO value in ranking, just as before. And, if you’re concerned with Google rewriting your titles very often, we emphasize writing unique & more relevant titles that users prefer.