Sounds funny, right? But it’s true. The search giant confirmed that it alters or ignores the title tags on our sites to show what it feels may be more relevant towards a user’s search query. A recent video by Matt Cutts explains how they display different content than what a webmaster has provided. In the video, Matt says that Google may use the content on our page, anchor text from backlinks pointing to that page or a description from the Open Directory Project (DMOZ) in lieu of the original page title.
It almost seems unfair that this is done in the first place. If the search algorithm is designed to show better sites based on a webpages content, and title tags are a part of that content, then Google shouldn’t step in to change anything. The video further explains what they look for when reviewing title tags. Keep them short, include a good description of the site and make sure they’re relevant to the query. Let’s dissect this a little further. Keeping them short, I understand that. Though, recent findings suggest that character limit is no longer a concern, it’s more so pixel width. Next is a good description of the site. Does this mean that we’re supposed to include the brand in the title tag? What about a company slogan, wouldn’t this add to the size of the title tag?
Lastly we have relevant to the query. This is one that I’m having the most trouble with. If the title tag is relevant to the query to begin with, why does Google need to intervene? I get it, sometimes meta data (yes I’m including title tags in this) is overlooked when launching a website so it may not be fully optimized. I also understand that a website may have really good on-page content while overlooking those criteria and Google may still want to serve that information. But it just seems unfair that webmasters can ignore certain guidelines and possibly rank better than the competition.
Why Not Allow Dynamic Keyword Insertion
In AdWords, there is an advanced feature that allows for a different set of keywords to be shown based on a user’s query. Why not allow organic search to control that? I mean, that would show keywords/phrases related to a search query.
My Two Cents
I will continue to create and implement quality page titles, descriptions and content until I retire but I’m concerned with how small changes like this will continue to change in the future. Are we going to have less control over how our content is displayed in the SERPs? Is this pushing us all to use semantic markup more frequently? There are so many questions that only time will answer.