Google is changing your titles for you…whether they’re “optimized” or not!
Google is overruling your title tags when they determine that your content headlines are more relevant.
Previously, I had only seen this behavior when there were not well-structured title tags, keyword-stuffed title tags or no title tags at all. This has been well documented and discussed. This is the first time that I have noticed Google taking a more aggressive stance in rewriting title tags that have been well crafted.
Google employees have clarified on forums when titles used to be rewritten:
There are certain situations where we’d replace a title in search results (as is happening here), for example if we find that the same title is used on a number of pages or if the title is otherwise not that good (eg “Home”).
Why is Google rewriting my Title Tags? – Google Webmaster Central Help
In general, when we run across titles that appear to be sub-optimal, we may choose to rewrite them in the search results. This could happen when the titles are particularly short, shared across large parts of your site or appear to be mostly a collection of keywords.
Google Webmaster Central Help
Let’s take a look:
When doing a `site:[article url]` search, Google displays the actual `<title>` tag of the page:
When doing a search for `CubeCart PDF Upload`, Google has rewritten the `<title>` tag: it replaced the title with the name of the post and stripped “Blog” off of the site name:
And just to prove that they don’t mind the title in general (according to their old rules, quoted above), when doing a search for `File Types CubeCart Upload`, we have the normal page title again:
What does this means for optimizing your blog posts for SEO?
Use different keywords in the <title> and the blog post.
It’s always recommended to craft your <title> tag carefully and to mix up the keywords used in the name of the posts as well as in the `<h1>` and `<h2>`’s. That way the most valuable parts of your site have your targeted keywords. Google used the name of the post (verbatim) instead of the title tag.
Use headings for improved listings.
Since we now know that Google is re-writing listing results for relevance, using more headings with variations on a theme. Also, moving around words in a phrase (and making some plural) is a good move: check out our post on SEO word order for examples.
Do you have examples of Google modifying your search results? Have they used content other than headlines for the updated titles? Leave feedback below.