We've known for some time that Google sometimes changes the title of a page in the SERP based on the request. But on Monday August 16th, many SEOs started noticing that their titles were completely rewritten, in a damaging way.
We too noticed, because one of our pages did most visited has been hit hard by the change. .
Needless to say, we were a little surprised. So what's going on? We investigated and share with you:
- A clear case study of a tag rewrite title that drastically affected our traffic.
- How it happened and what we did to fix it.
- How this story unfolded in the SEO community.
- Comments from Google on the change and what it means for all of us.
Thanks to Elisa Gabbert and Gordon Donnelly for their collaboration on this article .
How Google's title rewrite diddropping our CTR
On Monday, we noticed traffic to one of our longtime front pages (our Free keyword generator ) for the week of August 16-22 decreased by 25% compared to the previous week, with a noticeable drop between August 16 and August 17.
When we started digging into this issue in our Search Console account, we found that the average position of the page in Google was stable , and impressions had increased, but the organic click-through rate (CTR) of the page fell sharply , from 33% to 26% for the most traffic-generating request: a 21% drop .
We saw a 21% drop in CTR for the highest query on our Free Keyword Tool page with no position change.
This significant decrease concerns the query "free keyword research tool", the single query that generates the most traffic to the page (and one of the most frequent requests for our site in general). We have seen similar declines in a range of related keyword searches. For example, for the query "free keyword tool", the CTR dropped 37%.
Then Elisa Gabbert , our director of content and SEO, did a little digging deeper and I noticed that Google had changed the title displayed on the SERP, from "Free Keyword Tool " to "Learn more about the FREE Keyword Tool ". That wasn 't the title we gave the page— it was an H1 tag from a section far enough down the page.
This change made the page to one page of informationration rather than a real tool, making the apparent intention worse. Obviously, people using a search query like "keyword research tool" or "free keyword research tool" want to find a tool and use it, not "learn more about" a tool. This would explain the drop in CTR despite maintaining the mid position.
What we did to fix it
To try to force Google to display the title we wanted them to use, we changed the header of the page they were posting on the SERP to "Try the FREE Keyword Tool from" and then requested a new one. exploration via the research console. This title is much more actionable and reflects a better match of intent.
Our title is now the title shown in the SERP, and the traffic to the page is immediately restored to the previous levels .
Elisa,with our Senior SEO Manager Gordon Donnelly , had heard about these changes in the news. And sure enough, the story started to gain momentum.
How the story of the Google page title update came about. 'is unrolled
So it ' s good that we have been able to recover from our losses due to what some call the 'page title update'. But as the SEOs did their investigation, the i The question seemed more complex. Here's how the story unfolded.
SEOs see titles replaced with header tags
On August 17th, Barry Schwartz reported on Google the display header tags instead of titles in the SERP, sharing sample Tweets andasking if this was a bug or a test.
But it was more than the
The next day (August 18), Brodie Clark explained that Google does not replace titles with header tags only, but provided the proof that the titles were taken from "internal links, image alt text, or even completely invented by Google.
He provided an extreme example by Lily Ray , w the title was replaced by the H1 from a completely different page whichreferredto the article.
He alsoHe noted his observations that the rewritten titles appear to be shorter, not because of the pixel limit, but perhaps for readability purposes, and also to be able to include the brand name at the end of the line. 'excerpt.
Source of the 'image
Danny Sullivan says it's not a new change
August 23, Schwartz 's follow-up article covered Danny Sullivan's response to the comments on Twitter. Here's what Sullivan said.
He confirmed that Google has heard the comments, but the change is not new.
"Suffice it to say, we've heard the comments and looked at it all. That said, it was never true that writing the "perfect title" guaranteed that the title would be used.e. We have long used more than title tags to create page titles. This is not a new change… ”
Source of the image
He reminded us that this is not necessarily a bad thing
Sullivan has then pointed out that There are many instances where this "long-standing title generation system has helped pages with" terrible title tags. "
He talked about potential solutions for "problematic titles ".
Matt Southern calls this the “I really think so” tag in SEJ's coverage on Sullivan's response .
Google confirms the update
Finally, the following week, on Tuesday August 24, Google announced updated title of their web page , with:
- Announced that 'it will no longer generate titles based on the query.
Instead, "our new system produces titles that work better for documents in general, to describe what they are about, whatever the particular request. He also mentioned giving special importance to what a visitor can visually see on the page.
- Reinforced that this is not entirely new
Google has used more than the HTML title tag to generate titles s Since 2012, because some pages contain very long tags, containing mKeywords or no tags.
- Assured us that creating good HTML tags is always important.
Google said the HTM title is "always by far the most used, over 80% of the time ". And that they will soon update their help page on the topic to reflect the change.
What does this bring us?
As for any algorithm update, it's usually not a good idea to go into your pages and optimize for that particular update, but rather to make sure you focus on quality at all But it will be important to pay close attention to your traffic and CTR to see if there are any fixes or optimizations you need to make. As we have seen, Google does not always succeed in "improving" your work!
And vous? Has Google rewritten some of your titles? Share your stories in the comments below!