You’ve spent hours crafting the perfect blog post for your making sure it’s keyword rich, engaging, and totally on-brand. You type and re-type your title until it’s just right. You rearrange the order of the words multiple times.
You even consult thesaurus.com to find just the right synonym for “good”—“great.”
Finally, you settle on something that accurately reflects what your content is about, and what your company is about, while also being SEO-friendly.
You hit publish, share it on social media—and now, you wait.
Soon, you’re overjoyed to find Google has already indexed your post. Even better, you find that you’re ranking in the SERPs already!
Google rewrote the title of your article.
And obviously, it’s not anywhere near as good as the title you originally wrote.
Why? Why on earth would Google rewrite your writing?
You already had a perfect title—Isn’t that what the title tags are for? Why complicate something as pure and simple as HTML title tags with “machine learning algorithms” and whatnot?
Let’s take a step back and explore why Google does this, and what you can do when they do it.
Why Does Google Use More Than HTML Title Tags to Generate Page Titles Now?
Well, here’s the thing. They actually started this back in 2012.
However, in late 2021, they introduced a new way of generating titles, which has attracted more attention from business owners, SEOs, and digital marketers.
The reasons Google gives for why they might go beyond the title tag are thus:
- Sometimes title tags contain “very long” titles.
- Title tags are often “stuffed with keywords” because of people using outdated “SEO” practices.
- Sometimes the title tags for pages are empty (or the tags are just missing entirely).
- Title tags often contain “repetitive boilerplate language.”
The examples they give for boilerplate language are home pages just being titled “Home,” and sub-pages being titled “Untitled” or the name of the site itself.
However, I would think this would highly apply to companies who use marketing language across page titles like “The Number One Provider of X – About Us.” WordPress certainly makes it easy enough for business owners and marketing departments to do this.
Google goes on to say that the late 2021 update was designed to produce more readable and accessible page titles, and that “in some cases” they may “add site names where that is seen as helpful.”
In other cases, they choose what they think is the most relevant part of the title, and toss everything around it. This is obviously the most frustrating for business owners, who have pretty much lost complete control over the page titles that their visitors/potential customers see in organic search results.
What Can You Do When Google Rewrites Your Page Titles?
Google’s advice for dealing with this is almost humorous in its predictability:
“Focus on creating great HTML title tags.”
They point out that “more than 80%” of the time” they use title tags when generating page titles. (The way I read this, at least, is that they use any information surrounded by your title tags >80% of the time, not that they use your exact title >80% of the time.)
According to Google, their own testing shows that the late 2021 update to page title generation “produces titles that are more readable and preferred by searchers compared to our old system.”
I’m not sure how much comfort that will bring to business owners who are used to having more control over their branding and messaging in SERPs.
Google is in the business of delivering the most helpful search results to its users. And sometimes, that means making decisions that aren’t necessarily in the best interests of businesses.
Other times, that may mean making decisions that might technically work out better for businesses—like making titles that are more clear and to the point for impatient searchers—but might still be frustrating. Especially if you like to have control over how your business is presented, or even if you just feel like you’ve already human-optimized your title tags and don’t need some AI bot to come in like Clippy and say “I fixed that for you.”
At the end of the day, all you can really do is keep writing “great title tags,” and hope that Google uses most of them, most of the time.
But if you find that Google is rewriting your titles a lot, consider streamlining them.
If they’re very long, make them shorter.
Remove words that are boilerplate/pure marketing language.
You don’t need to remove all marketing words of any kind, but you don’t necessarily need the title of every single page to start and end with “The #1 Provider of Round Ice Cube Trays in The Panhandle,” or “The Largest Importer/Exporter of Woolly Buggers on The Gulf Coast.” (Sorry, thought this was a fishing SEO post for a second.)
Just focus on making the titles of your content clear, concise, and to the point for search engine users.
Because at the end of the day, that’s really all Google is trying to do here.
If you can do a good enough job of optimizing your page titles before Google gets their hands on it, they may not need to step in and “fix” them for you at all.
Of course, you can also use PPC marketing to get your company’s exact branding and messaging in front of searchers—and above other search engine results.