SEO Update: Optimizing Page Titles
Recent changes at Google have prompted us to update our guide to optimizing page titles. If you read and followed the advice in our previous blog post, you are still in good shape. This article builds on that post, so read it first if you don’t know how to optimize page titles.
Google recently updated their best practices for SEO and it helps us understand how and why some sites have seen their page titles changed in Google’s organic search results. If this happened to your page titles or you want to avoid it from happening, keep reading.
Google’s Best Practices for Writing Titles:
- Make sure every page on your site has its own title specified in the <title> element.
- Create unique titles for each page and avoid boilerplate text.
- Keep titles concise and avoid unnecessarily long text.
- Write descriptive titles and avoid vague text, such as “Home” for the home page.
- Don’t repeat text in titles for the sake of adding more keywords.
- Brand your titles when appropriate by appending the name of your site to the front of them.
Common Issues With Title Elements:
Google lists the following as the reasons the title in organic search results may be different from the title element you set in the <TITLE> meta tag:
- Incomplete: Titles are half-empty or missing any kind of descriptive text. Example: <title>| Site Name</title>
- Obsolete: The title has not been adjusted to reflect an update to the main content. This discrepancy could occur on something like a yearly roundup article that uses the same URL year after year.
- Inaccurate: The title element doesn’t accurately reflect the main content.
- Micro-boilerplate text: There’s repeated boilerplate text in the <title> elements for a subset of pages within a site.
Even if you avoid all these problems and follow all their best practices, Google may still decide to replace your title with text created by their new AI (artificial intelligence).
How Google Generates Page Titles:
Google wants to display titles that most accurately represent pages in their organic search results. To that end, MUM and BERT are Google’s latest content-aware advanced learning neural networks. They are so advanced and pervasive in the management of search results that the Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google admitted he has no idea what percentage of searches are affected.
What they can tell us is that the following sources are used to create title links:
- 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 in the page
- Anchor text on the page
- Text within links that point to the page