Google has recently announced changes to how they display title tags in Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs). As an SEO agency, we’re looking at ways these updates may impact click-through rate (CTR), ranking signals and other effects on digital marketing. The aim of the roll-out is positive, with Google hoping to improve CTR by using a generated tag instead of the one you create yourself.
The new system to generate title tags was confirmed in August 2021 and focuses more on page content to generate text rather than being based on the search query (which is how Google’s title generation worked previously). At the time of the announcement, Google reinforced that they only use a generated title for roughly 20% of results. However, this figure has been reduced and HTML title tags are being used around 87% of the time.
The original change of system has been designed to tackle issues with readability and accessibility. For example, the length of titles or use of brand names. The change announced in September sees Google tone down the use of auto-generated titles. Nevertheless, we can expect further revisions of this system while Google find the right balance which is likely measured using overall CTR from SERPs. In the meantime, industry professionals have discovered several examples where the system has produced strange or nonsensical titles.
Research has found several interesting trends that give us an indication of what Google are trying to accomplish with this change:
- Shorter titles are less likely to be changed
- Google will change the titles roughly 95% of the time if emojis or weird characters are used
- High authority websites aren’t being forced to use their brand name
- Google is often using the H1 from the page more than 50% of the time for generated titles
- For generated titles, the average character count is roughly 52
Furthermore, Google have also provided more detailed information on circumstances where they might opt to generate a title tag:
- Half-empty titles eg. “| Site Name”
- Obsolete titles eg. “2020 admissions criteria – University of Awesome”
- Inaccurate titles eg. “Giant stuffed animals, teddy bears, polar bears – Site Name”
- Micro-boilerplate titles eg. auto-generated titles that produce lots of duplicates
While Google’s documentation for titles is relatively unchanged, the additional detail and examples they have provided alongside these updates are useful guidance for SEO best practices.
With title tags being an important on-page ranking signal, we’ll be closely monitoring further changes. If you’re interested in learning more about page optimisation or any of our SEO services, please contact our team.