Page titles (title tags) have a large impact on click-through rates because they provide important context to search engines, but a recent study shows Google rewrites title tags more than 60% of the time.
The study showed that certain factors increased the probability of Google rewriting title tags:
- Too short or too long titles
- Brackets & parenthesis
- Title Separators (The study showed Google replaced or eliminated the pipe 41% of the time, but only removed dashes 19.7% of the time. It often replaced the pipe with a dash)
- Using too many keywords, the same titles for multiple pages, and the unnecessary use of brand names often led to Google making changes.
Unfortunately, we can’t stop Google from making these changes. SEO experts and website owners often create specific page titles and want them shown as is, but there’s no way to guarantee Google won’t change them.
In a recent Twitter thread, Google’s Search Advocate John Mueller said it’s unlikely that a mechanism to restrict Google from changing metadata will become available. The best way to avoid Google rewriting page titles is to write a strong page title yourself adhering to the rules above.
We’ve put together some helpful tips for creating quality title tags to prevent Google from rewriting them.
Seven Title Tag Best Practices
1. Make sure every page has a title tag.
2. Write concise title tags that describe what the web page is about, avoiding vague descriptions such as “Home Page”.
3. Avoid keyword stuffing.
4. Avoid boilerplate that is repeated across the site.
5. Branding phrases are okay until they become boilerplate. It’s acceptable to use branding phrases on the home page but Google cautions against repeating the branding phrase on many other pages.
6. Google sometimes uses what’s in the heading elements in the title links. Because of that, Google advises the use of a distinctive headline, which is usually contained in an H1 or H2 heading element at the top of the page.
7. Use the Robots.txt correctly – Google cautions that the Robots.txt should only be used to block the crawling of a page. The incorrect use of Robots.txt is to stop a page from being indexed because pages that are blocked by robots.txt can still be indexed if another page or website links to the blocked page. Google advises that in cases where a page is blocked by the robots.txt and Google can’t crawl the page, Google may end up using the anchor text from a site that links to the page.
Troubleshooting Tips for Page Titles
Google offers a checklist of things to check that may cause Google to write its own title link.
- Half-empty <title> elements – This means title tags that are incomplete
- Obsolete <title> elements – This refers to title tags that haven’t been updated to reflect the changed information on a web page, like the date.
- Inaccurate <title> elements – Google advises that title tags should accurately describe what the page is about. Google offers an example of a title tag that is too granular and doesn’t give a high-level description of what the page is about.
- Google lists the following factors that influence the title link that Google shows in the search results:
- Content in <title> elements
- Main visual title or headline shown on a page
- Heading elements, such as <h1> elements
- Other content that’s large and prominent through the use of style treatments
- Other text contained on the page
- Anchor text on the page
- Text within links that point to the page
By optimising your title tags by following these simple tips, you should prevent Google from reworking them.
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