September 7, 2021

What You Need to Know About Google’s Title Tag Update

In case you haven’t heard, Google recently changed how it creates title tags for search listings, prompting a number of SEO professionals to question what ramifications (if any) might come from the update.

Some noted that Google seemed to be showing Header tags (H1s and H2s) in SERPs rather than meta title tags. Others were worried that their rankings would wildly fluctuate as a result. Nearly everyone wanted to know more about what this might mean for page titles moving forward. Here’s what we know so far:

What actually changed with Google’s title tag update?

In the past, Google tended to use the queries searchers entered into the search box when creating the title of the search results snippets. To plug a scenario, let’s say you have an eCommerce retailer within the highly competitive health and wellness industry, but they’re having trouble capturing larger chunks of revenue due to the sheer volume of competition. In the past, they would have hopped on Google, performed a quick search for keywords or phrases related to health and wellness digital marketing, and the search results snippets would have mostly pulled from their query.

The results for this search would have also shown two things. First, the highest-ranking would stick out as being shorter and more concise, as the developers of those pages would have spent considerable time honing and refining their title tags. Likewise, the pages with larger, more verbose tags would rank lower, as theirs would appear truncated, making them less appealing from a visual and informational standpoint. Despite their ranking differences, Google would often formulate these search snippet titles from information contained within those page titles.

Now, however, things appear to have changed, with Google stating that it will generally no longer use the query to formulate titles. Instead, Google has adopted a new system to generate titles that the company claims “will describe what they are about, regardless of the query.” Adding to this, when it comes to Google search snippets, there are several aspects that have been known to fluctuate. These include:

  • Pixel/Character Limits: The limit for how much content can be displayed within a title tag or meta description can often vary based on device type. That being said, there are some general guidelines regarding pixel limits (aka character limits) that SEO professionals tend to follow. However, Google can sometimes make those limits longer or shorter for metadata elements.
  • Query Modification: This tends to be the most noticeable to SEO professionals, as many stress over making sure their meta descriptions are written well for Google to pull from. However, some have noted that Google seems to be re-writing a large number of those meta descriptions with more frequency.
  • Total Replacement: While rarer, Google will sometimes alter a snippet completely, especially if it feels that the snippet being set for the page doesn’t represent the content well enough.

The net result of this change (so far) seems to be that the titles in search results snippets appear to be shorter across the board. This isn’t too surprising, as Google’s stance has always been to give users quick insight as to what a page is going to be about before they click it. After all, it’s one of the key factors that go into a decision as to which result to click on, especially if someone is looking for specific information.

Why did Google make the change?

At the end of the day, Google’s primary objective is to make their search engine as user-friendly as possible, and this includes doing the same to title tags. Furthermore, Google has been known to add site names into page titles if it deems them more helpful, even going so far as to use portions of longer titles versus the whole thing if they would appear truncated otherwise.

What were some of the side effects of Google’s title tag update?

While Google has confirmed that they’re continuing to tweak this new system, feedback from SEO professionals has outlined some questionable (and bizarre) side-effects from the change. These include:

  • Declines in CTRs: A number of SEOs reported declines in CTRs as a result of their titles being re-written by the algorithm. Their sites didn’t lose rankings, and their positions stayed the same, but they lost noticeable traffic.
  • Wrong locations in the SERP titles: This is especially alarming, as users are far less likely to click a result that shows a different city location than the one they are looking for.
  • Health-related titles being mangled: Google was apparently adding words like “vaccination” into page titles for pages that were about an illness, rather than vaccination for that illness.
  • Random capitalization errors: Some SEOs were reporting that Google was inserting incorrect capitalization in SERP titles, resulting in awkward mixes of lowercase and uppercase words.

What does this change mean for your business or website?

As for what this change might mean for your business or website, only time will tell. Google has stated that feedback could likely lead to more Search Console tools for SEOs to manage their titles better. Likewise, they’ve confirmed no one should see any ranking decreases from the change.

Google is still continuing to make tweaks to their update, and their advice for generating page titles has stayed the same: keep things short, keep them concise, and differentiate your descriptions for different pages.

Need Help Optimizing Your Title Tags for Google SERPs? Turn to the Search Marketing Experts at VELOX Media.

As the single largest marketing channel for B2B and B2C organizations, organic search still accounts for 9 out of 10 users to your website. Should you find yourself worried about Google’s title tag update or what it could mean for your business moving forward, we’d love to help! Our search marketing experts work with all types of clients, and our revenue-modeled search optimization is guaranteed to outrank the competition and crush your vertical.

Contact VELOX Media today to learn more about how we can help you optimize your organic SEO strategies.

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