Last week, we reported on the latest news sending the SEO community into a tailspin: Google is replacing title tags with other on-page text. H1s, H2s and even anchor text from internal links are showing up on search engine results pages (SERPs) instead.
At the time, we assumed that Google was running A/B tests. But now, we have confirmation that the change is permanent. In a Google Search Central blog, Danny Sullivan announced that the search engine is changing the way it generates page titles in search results – which means site owners now have less control over the titles being displayed for their web pages.
So, the question on every SEO’s lips: Why? Why would Google not stick to HTML title tag text, which has been working just fine so far? Well, that’s precisely where Google disagrees. According to Sullivan, many site owners get this text remarkably wrong. Often, title tags do a lousy job of describing a page’s content for these reasons:
- They have too many keywords
- They are too long
- They contain either no text or boilerplate text
As for how Google decides what text to use, Sullivan said,
“In some cases, we may add site names where that is seen as helpful. In other instances, when encountering an extremely long title, we might select the most relevant portion rather than starting at the beginning and truncating more useful parts.”
Does this mean you should give up on title tags and relegate this task to Google? Absolutely not. Sullivan said Google will still display original HTML text in over 80 percent of instances. If your title tag text is the best it can be, you don’t have to worry about Google making non-consensual changes.
Also, the title tag update doesn’t mean SEOs have lost all their power. Sullivan confirmed on Twitter that the update is dynamic and changes according to any changes you make. This means that if Google has given you a new title, you can take it as an indication that your current title tag didn’t accurately reflect the content of your page. And if you replace it with a title Google deems satisfactory, the SERPs may present this new title instead.
Still, the SEO community is concerned because so far, Google’s update hasn’t always been getting it right. For some, it’s resulted in a loss of search traffic. For others, inaccurate information has been presented, or incorrect capitalization implemented. However, Google has confirmed that work is still being done, and issues will be ironed out soon. So let’s wait and see how this unfolds.
More SEO News You Can Use
The Google Link Spam Update Is (Finally) Complete: Google’s Link Spam update, which was originally expected to roll out within two weeks, is complete. Sullivan announced the news on Twitter almost a full month after tweeting about the update’s launch. As a reminder, this update will, in Google’s words, “nullify” link spam, not “penalize” it, which seems to imply Google’s algorithm will ignore spammy links. Also, bear in mind that Google’s original blog is deliberate in the way it presents the announcement of this update, first discussing link building best practices and then reminding publishers using affiliate programs to qualify these types of links with the rel=“sponsored” tag. The message is clear: Follow these rules, and you’ll escape unscathed (or revert any link spam-related rankings drops when Google reassesses your site).
Google Is Paying Apple Billions of Dollars To Stay the Default Search Engine for Apple’s Safari Browser: It’s no secret in the search world that Google pays a significant amount of money to Apple to remain its default search engine – this isn’t new information. But a report by Apple blog Ped30 that the alleged cost has gone up 50 percent in one year, from $10 billion to $15 billion, is certainly worth noting. Experts assume that this massive jump is for Google to ensure it won’t be outbid by Microsoft. Safari reportedly holds 53 percent of the mobile browser market share in the U.S., so you can see why Google would be desperate to keep this relationship going. And with money like this being moved around (it’s predicted Google will be paying around $20 billion in 2022), we probably won’t see Google losing much of its search-market dominance anytime soon.
Google Has Redesigned Its “How Search Works” Website: Google has given its How Search Works website an impressive facelift – it’s unrecognizable from how it looked before, but the information is still pretty much identical. While the site’s content may be a bit rudimentary for SEO experts, it is still a fantastic resource to share with clients who may be unfamiliar with how Google Search operates. Plus, there’s a reason for SEOs to remain interested in the site: Every year, Google releases some fascinating data on Search changes throughout the past year. The newly-released stats for 2020 reveal that the company made 4,500 changes to Search compared to 3,200 in 2019. And with Google’s recent announcement that new technology is allowing it to make more algorithm updates faster, we can only begin to guess what this number will look like for 2021.
No, Mobile and Desktop Pages Don’t Need to Match Exactly: Say it once more for the people in the back – your desktop and mobile pages do not need to be exact matches of each other. The content is allowed to differ in certain aspects, and Google won’t penalize you for it. All that these pages need to do is fulfill the same purpose, which is exactly what Google’s John Mueller told an SEO on Twitter. Search Engine Roundtable’s Barry Schwartz reported on the user asking Mueller a question about pagination on desktop vs. mobile sites. Muller explained that regardless of how many items exist on a desktop page and its mobile counterpart, as long as the pagination works in both forms, Google is happy. So there’s no need to throw everything you have at your mobile site if it isn’t working out – it won’t affect your SEO either way.
Ahrefs’ Blog About Email Outreach Is Worth a Read: Ask any SEO or link-building specialist – email outreach is the pits. No matter how many pretty, punchy, perfectly templated emails you send begging someone to spread the word about your content, the hard truth is that 9/10 people are going to ignore it. It doesn’t matter how many guides you’ve read about how to craft the perfect email subject line. Is there a way out of this endless circle of indifference? Ahrefs seems to think so. Yes, this is another list of email outreach tips, but at least this one is honest! In a blog, author Tim Soulo writes about the reasons your emails are being ignored that maybe you haven’t considered. For example, industry reputation makes a substantial difference to whether your email gets read and responded to or not, and no good outreach template can make up for bad content. For more insights (and affirmation that you’re not in this struggle alone), check out the blog.
Editor’s Note: “SEO News You Can Use” is a weekly blog post posted every Monday morning only on SEOblog.com, rounding up all the top SEO news from around the world. Our goal is to make SEOblog.com a one-stop-shop for everyone looking for SEO news, education and for hiring an SEO expert with our comprehensive SEO agency directory.