Why Is Google Changing Title Tags On SERPS?
On August 16th, a host of SEO agency professionals noticed something unusual and took to Twitter to comment. They observed that Google had rewritten the title tags for some of their pages when they appeared in search results. More often than not, the title was replaced with the H1 tag - but not always.
Google adjusting SERP (Search Engine Results Page) results page titles isn't exactly news, as they have been tweaking them for a while, usually by adding in the business's name. Completely overriding the titles is something different, though. It is worth noting that it's not yet clear if this is a permanent change, at least at this point in time.
Why Has Google Changed the SERP Title Tags?
These subtle adjustments are largely designed to meet user intent. However, as digital expert Lily Ray pointed out in one of her Twitter comments on the topic, it is something they have been doing since 2013.
However, Google has taken other items from the page, including dates, H2 tags, and even anchor text. They have been doing similar things with meta descriptions and snippets for almost as long.
From Google's perspective, the whole purpose of this is to make the search results more relevant to the user's initial query.
The observational trend amongst SEO agencies and professionals right now is that where Google is replacing a title in its entirety, it's doing so to make it shorter, intending to improve readability and highlight that particular entry's relevance to the user.
What Does Google's Algorithm Change Mean for SEOs and Website Owners?
From a website owner's perspective, this may be frustrating, especially if they have spent time and effort crafting and honing the perfect title, but all in all, it's mostly a positive change. There surely aren't many business owners who don't want to appear more relevant to people searching for businesses similar to theirs, after all!
It's hard to say if this is to become a permanent change from Google; as they are known for running A/B testing from time to time, this may simply be a test for the latest iteration of their algorithm. So, these adjusted title tags may be a permanent change, but it is also possible that over the next coming weeks, people will see titles reverting to their previous way of working.
Google's Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst had this to say -
"Titles are important! They are important for SEO. They are used as a ranking factor. Of course, they are certainly used as a ranking factor, but it is not something where I'd say the time you spend on tweaking the title is the best use of your time."
We know that Google usually doesn't try to make work for websites any more than it has to, so, at the moment, it is not going to be worth changing a whole bunch of titles. The main thing to focus on - as always - is not the titles, but the content itself.