The State of Search: Google Rewrites Title Tags

Beginning around August 17th, Google appeared to rewrite title tags displayed in the search results with other relevant--and sometimes irrelevant--text pulled from the site pages. Oftentimes, the title tag was replaced with a heading tag from the page and in other cases, image alt text or internal link anchor text was used.

Google frequently replaces title tags with alternative text that better matches the relevancy of the user’s query so this was not a new occurrence. However, shortly following vocal concerns from the SEO community, Google introduced a new system for title tag generation, which refers to on-page elements of a page, especially those that are visible to users when they land on the page in an effort to display more readable title tags.  

Google News and Updates

  • A bug in Google Search Console led to data loss in Search and Discover performance from August 23rd to 24th. Unfortunately, the missing data will not be backfilled.
  • Google’s Link Spam update finished rolling out on August 24th, almost a month after it began.
  • Core updates impact the visibility of SERP features like People Also Ask questions, rich snippets, and featured snippets. According to Google, these changes aren’t usually industry-specific.
  • Personalization in Google Search is an "extremely light" ranking signal and is "fairly rare" to be used for ranking purposes according to Google’s Danny Sullivan. 

What This Means for You

Creating strong, well-optimized title tags will continue to be an important SEO task as Google primarily refers to the HTML title tag for over 80% of site pages. Webmasters may see changes in CTR--but not in rankings--for pages where Google chooses to display different text in the title tag.

Let’s talk.