Google Updates How Page Titles Are Generated in the Search Results

Google Updates How Page Titles Are Generated in the Search Results

In August 2021 Google announced an update of the way web titles are displayed in the search results. On August 24, the Mountain View giant described the modification in detail. Today, we’re going to take a closer look at this update and analyze the industry one month after its introduction.

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Table of Contents:

It’s worth mentioning that it’s not the first update as Google has been optimizing how titles are displayed for years. It wants to ensure that page titles are clear, transparent, simple, and related to the content.

Since the introduction of the update a few weeks ago, we’ve been closely monitoring the way titles are displayed in the SERPs. Therefore, today’s entry will be devoted not only to the causes and repercussions of the modification but also to the first conclusions.

Google updates the way of generating titles in the search results

What are the reasons for this update?

In the guide “How to write titles and meta descriptions” it’s possible to find a sound list of reasons explaining why Google is trying to change the way page titles are generated. It also includes information describing the purpose of properly structured titles and descriptions:

The goal of the snippet and title is to best represent and describe each result and explain how it relates to the user’s query.

With the help of the update, Google is trying to get rid of the titles that don’t meet the above objective, aren’t useful or make it hard to navigate the search results.

Which titles will be changed? Google’s black book

  • too long and untransparent (e.g. “Everything you need to know about immunity – a guide to home methods for the whole family | Blog about Herbs” – it’s worth mentioning that such a title wasn’t displayed fully also in the past);
  • empty or partially empty (e.g. ” | Site name”, where only the global part of the title is provided);
  • stuffed with keywords (i.e. with too many keywords) – e.g. “Car service car repair automotive service Boston”);
  • not describing the content correctly (e.g. “Landing page” instead of “Health food store | Brand”);
  • duplicated internally (the same content on various subpages);

The new system of generating page titles – what is going to change?

Numerous title generation options (sources apart from the HTML code) are the biggest change brought about by the August 2021 update.

How does Google generate titles after the modification?

  • It uses the text that people see when they open a web page to describe the content even before users click on it;
  • It considers the title and content in header tags (with particular attention to the H1 header);
  • It considers appropriately formatted text (i.e., larger font sizes) as important;
  • It can but doesn’t have to take into account the rest of the web text, including text marked with <p>, not the header tag;
  • It pays attention to text in links that lead to the page.

 

Danny Sullivan and Search Liaison from Google state:

Our testing shows the change we’ve introduced produces titles that are more readable and preferred by searchers compared to our old system” (source).

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Takeaways and feedback after the update

Many SEO specialists have different opinions on the way web page titles are generated – some experts even call the update the “title apocalypse” (Tweet by Lily Ray) and note serious CTR decreases since the modification.

Search Engine Journal also reports that in addition to changes in traffic, the update also resulted in some recurring issues, such as:

  • displaying the wrong location in the title, which can increase the bounce rate (for example when a user opens a florist’s page expecting it to be in their location when it’s not);
  • Incorrect use of lower and upper case letters in titles, causing logical errors and some linguistic misunderstandings (e.g. Jennifer Slegg’s twitter, referring to Britannica’s title starting with a lowercase letter);
  • problems with emojis
  • there are numerous people in the healthcare industry who state that Google misinterprets content. In the example below, the title displayed in the SERP suggests that the site will talk about flu vaccinations rather than the flu itself, even though the title tag doesn’t mention vaccinations;


Due to so many issues, there are opinions that the update to the way titles are generated was introduced too quickly, without sufficiently thorough testing – perhaps that’s why Google promises to be open to suggestions and work on improving the system of generating titles, encouraging users to submit feedback on the forum (the discussion can be viewed, among others, in a Google’s support page).

However, many experts claim that the update is a long-awaited and good change that will improve the display of titles. There are also optimistic voices saying originally incorrect titles are now refined. Brodie Clark notes that the SERPs are returning to normal, and Andy Beard suggests that titlegeddon is coming to an end and shows, among other things, the reintroduction of emoji display in the search results.

google update on title generation
An example of changes and H1 title comparison. Source: https://twitter.com/AndyBeard/status/1437832729379414017/photo/1
Expert Comment

It’s a positive Google update. Titles and descriptions have been tweaked for a long time, and the latest update emphasizes that elements seen by users (paragraph, headers) are very important. Automatic titles that don’t add much such as “Home Page” will be changed by Google to better show the content of the page displayed in the SERPs. It’s also no surprise that Google wants to understand what’s on the page, not by metadata (invisible to the user), but semantically, by headers and paragraph content.

Mateusz Calik Delante
Matt Calik
Head of SEO & SEM

What does this update mean to you?

Since Google updated the way titles are generated in the search results, these modifications will certainly affect all website owners. Fortunately, for quite a long time we’ve been working to unify titles, H1 headers and meta descriptions with the <p> tagged fragment of the first paragraph.

Google won’t overwrite the title because according to the search engine’s expectations, the metadata matches the content seen by the user. Therefore, if you did your best to refine your content structure, you shouldn’t have any problems after the update.

If, on the other hand, you notice a change in how Google shows your titles in the search results (the Keyword Surfer plugin for Chrome can help you check if the title has been changed) or if there is a visible drop in traffic, you already know which steps to take to ensure that everything is displayed correctly.

Tip: If you copy the meta description into the page description (such as a category or product description of an online store), it’ll probably be shown in the SERPs just as you would like it to be.

Google changes the way titles are generated in the search results – the takeaway

The latest update on the web page titles introduced in August by Google brings quite a few changes to the mechanics of the SERPs and strives to make users the most important and combine metadata with elements displayed to people. Don’t forget to tag your headers (especially H1) and keep your entire page content unique and relevant. If you do it, everything should fall into place.

If this update has taught you anything new or you’ve observed changes in traffic and title form on your website, let us know in the comment section below!

FAQ

Many people wonder whether it’s worth creating their own meta titles now when the update is introduced. Of course, it is! Even Google states that correct HTML title tags are still important. Search engine specialists emphasize that more than 80% of page titles are still generated with the use of the title tag.

Titles automatically generated by Google aren’t ideal, therefore, Google is going to refine the system with the help of users’ feedback. Ultimately, the changes are supposed to create titles that are clearer and more user-friendly in comparison to the previous ones.

Yes. It’s significant for both Google (it’s a big update and a challenge, especially with the emerging problems) and SEO specialists or website owners and users. However, we can assume that this modification will bring more good than harm. After all, it’s a continuation of other efforts that try to satisfy users’ needs.

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Delante is an online marketing agency specialized in generating website traffic from search engines and paid ads (SEO / SEM). Over 80% of our clients are from rapidly growing e-commerce industry.

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