Why Google Replaces Title Tags & How to Create Better Ones

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In the latest episode of Hack My Growth, we’re looking at Google’s new title tag update and what you can do to improve your titles within the search results. We’ll discuss why they’ve made these changes, how they’re impacting the search results, and what you can do to create better titles for your website.

Video Transcript: 

We’re going to be looking at why Google will replace your title tags and how you can generate better title tags for your pages. Google has been pretty active this Summer 2021. They’ve made a number of updates starting with multiple core updates, a number of link spam updates. And then in August, we got something known as the page title update. This was actually confirmed on the 24th of August by Google Search Central and retweeted out by a number of people, including the search liaison. But this update officially rolled out on August 17th. That’s when we started really seeing the changes within the search results.

Now it’s important to know that Google will still use the HTML title tag in most cases. At this time, they’re saying about 80% or over 80% of the time, but the reality is they’re still changing quite a bit of title tags, and there’s a lot of pages on the internet. So you may see this happen to your site. They’ve done this before. This isn’t something new, but the way they’re changing these title tags is new and it has changed quite substantially. So let’s take a look at some of these things that have changed and then what we can do about it.

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Google’s New Title Tag Update

So, as I said, Danny’s Sullivan, who is the search liaison at Google said in a post that he wrote talking about this update that they introduced this new system for generating titles for webpages. So before this, Google might change the title based on the specific query being used. So they would look at this query and they would look at the page and they would say, okay, yes, this page has that query, maybe we highlight a little bit more, or they would use that really to inform the changes. They’re not doing that anymore.

The new system is looking at much deeper things within the text in order to better describe that page within the search results, regardless of the particular query being used.

The new system is looking at much deeper things within the text in order to better describe that page within the search results, regardless of the particular query being used. So the key points here are that one, Google’s no longer basing them off queries when they’re doing generation. And number two, they’re looking to better describe a document to the users in search, regardless of the query being used.

How Google Generates Titles

So how do they generate these then? What are they doing? Google does a few different things and let’s take a look at what those are.

Google Uses the Text Within the Document

The first thing is they look at the text within the document to help them inform the title decision. What they’re looking to do is specifically use text that humans see visually when they arrive at a page. What do people see when they get there? What is the intent of this piece of content? What is its main content about?

Google Considers the Main Visual Title or Headline

Google’s also considering main visual titles or headlines on the page. So they’re looking at things like your H tags, your headings, the way you break up your content, and understanding specific parts of that content. And what’s the main point. So they’re taking that into account as well.

Google Will Use Other Text Contained in the Page

They’re also crawling the page and looking at your page text and specifically, they mentioned in this anchor text, so text within links that might describe more in detail, some of the different aspects of the page.

The key point here is that machine-readable content is very important. Google wants to really understand the content. Google’s not a person, Google’s a computer. It’s a lot of computers. It’s a machine. It’s algorithms. And they are not people. So these computers have to be able to digest this information and understand it in order to make better assumptions about the content.

Now we’ve talked about BERT. BERT’s gone through a number of iterations over the years. There’s also a lot of other NLP that Google’s using to better interpret our content, better to understand the context of our content. So it’s very important that we have content that is machine-readable, as well as human-readable so that Google can make those better assumptions in the case where they want to change our title tag to make it something more appealing to the user. But also just for them to better understand the context as well so that we might be able to get more visibility based on the intent of the query being used.

Why Google Changes Title Tags

So why does Google change title tags in the first place? The truth is title tags don’t always describe pages well. There can be a lot of issues and maybe you’ve crawled your site and you’ve found title tag issues.

One of the main ones is that they’re too long. People just, maybe they have the H1 of the blog posts and the title tag, and it generates this really long title, but it’s not really descriptive enough, or maybe it’s just too long. There’s too much in there.

The other thing is stuffing them with keywords. A lot of SEOs and people have realized that keywords are important, right? That Google looks at these certain terms. And we also know that title tags are extremely important. So we’ve made the mistake of putting too many of those into our titles. So this is something that Google does not like to see. It doesn’t help the user. So they might rewrite the title if the webmaster is stuffing that page or that page title with too many keywords.

And they also come across a lot of instances where people are using boilerplate language, or maybe using templates and your title maybe just like be homepage, right, or profile page or something like that. Again, that’s not very descriptive. And so the search engine in that case is going to try to better describe what that title is.

The overall goal of this update is to produce more readable and accessible titles for pages. So Google may add a site name if they think it’s helpful if maybe it’s like a navigational query or a branded query. Or maybe it’s a branded intent search, where people are looking for some like brands that do something. They might add those brands in. So they will do that at times.

In other instances, they find that they’ve got these titles that are really, really long that we talked about, and those will get cut off in the middle of the search results. And so they want to remove that so the user has a better experience. As you can see, there are a number of cases where Google’s going to find opportunities to probably optimize their own search engines, to give a better user experience.

And they’re using machine learning, an algorithm, and natural language to make this happen.

How to Create Better Page Titles

So how do we create better title tags? Google has their search docs, which they get into how to create these good titles. And it is a great place to start with the information from Google, because honestly they’re the largest search engine. And they’re the one that we’re most likely trying to gain some visibility on. As we know, titles are extremely important to our users. They’re one of the things that play the biggest role when a user decides to click on a specific page. So when we’re doing SEO, we’re doing content marketing. We want to leverage the search engines. We need to make sure that our title tags are enticing, that they are ad quality. That they’re at the quality where people see those and go, yes, I need to read that page. That page is exactly what I’m looking for.

And many times we just kind of look at them haphazardly, and we don’t take enough time. We don’t take enough intent in creating our titles. And then we wonder why our page doesn’t do well. And the search results don’t get enough clicks. I mean, I’m guilty of this too, right?

Here are a few tips that you can use to create better title tags.

A Unique Title Tag for Each Page

The first thing you want to do is make sure that every page has a unique title tag, and you’re actually specifying that within the title tag. Create these unique titles. Every page should have a specific purpose. The rule to follow is one page, one purpose. So make sure that each of those pages is unique, that they have a unique title tag that follows the rest of these tips.

Be Descriptive and Concise

The next thing you want to do is be descriptive and concise with your title tags. Now being straight to the point and doing it simply, and within a limited amount of space, isn’t easy. It’s something really, really hard to do. There’s a quote that Mark Twain says that said, “If I had more time, I would’ve written you a shorter letter.” And he’s really getting at the point that it takes a lot of time and effort to create something that is descriptive and concise. And I think that’s what we need to take as a challenge as SEOs, as content marketers, as digital marketers, to take the time to write these very descriptive, yet concise title tags. So we want to avoid these vague descriptors like home age or profile page. Those aren’t helpful. People don’t really care if it’s your homepage. What they care about is what you can do for them. How are you going to serve them?

And then you also want to make sure that it’s concise. Don’t make it long just to make it long, get to the point. Be clear about what you want to say and get to the point. Describe the content that they’re about to see and they’re about to interact within a way that’s going to provide them value and they can see the whole thing right there within the search results.

Avoid Keyword Stuffing

The next thing is to avoid keyword stuffing. You can use descriptive terms, related keywords. You should use those in your title tags, but don’t do it in a spammy way. Don’t force it in there. If it’s not natural and it doesn’t sound like a human being wrote that sentence, then don’t do that. Computers are much smarter today. And here’s the other thing, people are too. When people see spammy titles, they know it’s junk. We’ve been taught how to search.

We’ve been taught how to use search engines. And so you’re not tricking people into clicking something just because you have a keyword over, and over, and over in it. And Google’s smart enough now to go, yeah, your keyword stuffing. So we’re not going to rank this page. Even if you see short-term results, because a search engine saying, what is this page about? They’re very quickly going to realize that you’re spamming them and they’re going to remove you from the ranking. So think about the users. Think about the terms that they would use, think about how they speak, use those types of terms where they make sense. But again, you got to follow all of these together if you really want to have good title tags.

Avoid Repeated or Boilerplate Titles

Avoid repeated or boilerplate titles as well. Again, be distinct, be descriptive for each page. There’s a lot of e-commerce sites that will say, ‘coffee pots, cheapest price in town’. ‘Wallets, cheapest price in town’. ‘iPhone cases, cheapest price in town’. There are boilerplate titles where they’re just interjecting the same thing over, and over, and over, and over. That’s not helpful. It’s not descriptive. It doesn’t help the search engines better understand the page. It doesn’t help the user.

Now you can use things like cheap prices, best prices, or whatever you want to use, but use them in a natural way. Again, you don’t want to use them in boilerplate’s or repeated titles, especially if you have a massive amount of content. Google will pick up on this pretty quickly and they may ding you for this or they may rewrite your title tags at least because again, it’s not meeting what they’re looking for.

Brand Your Titles, But Be Concise

And then you can use your brand. Branding is important in a lot of industries and it’s okay to have your company’s name there. Your homepage is a great place to use your brand. Your contact page is another great place to use your brand, company pages, things like that. Don’t force your brand in there. But if you’ve got a lot of brand equity and you’ve worked really hard on promoting your brand, use your branding in your titles, but again, follow the other things.

So make sure every page is unique, be descriptive, concise. Don’t stuff them with keywords. Don’t use repeated or boilerplate titles. And lastly, use branding where it makes sense. When you follow these directions, you take the time to build these title tags. You’re actually not just going to help the search engine, you’re going to help new users. And you’re going to find more qualified traffic that’s going to come to your site where you can serve them with the products or services that you’re trying to sell or the connections you’re trying to make.

The titles are an extremely important part when it comes to search. So make sure you do everything you can to control what the users see within the search results. One thing I want to mention here at the end, SEO today is very much semantic. Semantic search engines are running the show. And as you can see, Google is using things like machine learning, natural language processing, entity recognition, in order to understand your content. They’re using this right now to not just change title tags, but also within the algorithm.

So if you want to learn how to optimize your website for semantics search as it is today, I’ve got a great course for you and it’s how to optimize for semantic search and it’s a simplified approach. Check it out at simplifiedsearch.net. You don’t have to be an expert. We’re going to walk you through each step and share with you how you can begin to optimize your site for semantic search.

Now, because you’re watching this on YouTube, you get a 25% off with the code semantic SEO. That brings a price from $55 to only $41.75. So it’s super affordable. Check this course out. I promise you, you’ll get a ton of value out of it. You’re going to see your site grow in ways you haven’t seen before. So if you’ve got any questions about what we talked about today, maybe it’s semantic SEO or the title tag update and the things that you’re seeing, please comment on the video. We’d love to continue that conversation with you. And until next time, happy marketing.

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