Google Rewriting Title Tags

Google is Rewriting Title Tags: Here's What You Need to Know

Published on September 29, 2021 by Joshua Hearn
Some SEOs and content marketers were recently taken aback when they noticed that Google was changing the titles of their articles in SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). 

Some speculated that the search engine took header tags from the page and switched them out for the title. However, Twitter users also began to report more random changes to their article titles, resulting in botched or inaccurate interpretations of the subject matter. 

Changes coming out of thin air?

More common trends include reports of misleading or incorrect location data in titles that list multiple locations or confusing capitalisation choices

One Twitter user even discovered SERPs showing titles listing dates that were apparently being pulled out of the URL. Some of these new SERP titles have no relation to the actual title tag of the article and display changes that seemingly come out of thin air, sometimes disproportionately affecting specific industries. 

Then there was the infamous POTUS scandal where a SERP title wrongly dubbed Joe Biden VP—despite him actually being the 46th President of the United States. It seems that the term “VP” was pulled at random from the article’s content.

But why are these changes happening now?

Google already occasionally adjusts titles in SERPs with minor tweaks, but these recent changes seem more randomised, suggesting that algorithms have begun rewriting title tags on a larger scale. 

Some wonder if these changes might be attributed to the May 2021 release of the TF-Ranking platform, which upgrades Google’s Learning to Rank (LTR) models and other existing algorithms. 

There is also speculation this could be an A/B test, where Google modifies one version of a page and compares performance to the original version. If so, the title modification glitches are likely only a temporary phenomenon while Google either smoothes out the cracks or reverts back to the original algorithm. 

The value of a clear, descriptive title

Indeed Google may even be experimenting with better ways to tweak your titles to attract the right type of traffic for the search terms. 

At a recent Webmaster Hangout, John Mueller, the Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst for Google, points to the importance of  “creat[ing] a title that matches what the user is actually looking for”. Google also explicitly discourages practices like title keyword dumping in their online Starter Guide

This theory is supported by some general trends in newly modified SERP titles. Most suggest changes geared toward improving readability:

  • Shorter titles 
  • Increased brand name visibility
  • Removing multiple locations in favour of a single location
  • Inserting hyphens

So essentially, the Google algorithm is likely sniffing out and modifying weak or poorly written title tags. 

What Does This Mean for In-House Marketers and SEO Pros? 

These changes have left many SEOs feeling frustrated when Google totally ignores the defined title element. In some unfortunate cases, “Titlepocalypse” has even left SEOs and marketers in a scramble to adjust their article titles before they lose clicks.

What’s in a title?

Titles are important, but they aren’t so vital that you need to spend a lot of extra time tweaking them. Focus on building a high-quality, comprehensive content marketing strategy that covers all the bases instead. 

A well-built sustainable approach won’t get thrown off course as by Google’s constantly evolving algorithm requirements. 

Here at Climbing Trees, we are committed to helping you build an ethical marketing base designed to drive your content campaigns into tomorrow. We are currently in the process of obtaining our own B Corp Certification—and are ready to show you how to put the tools you need to put a future-friendly content-based marketing strategy into action today.