SEO News

Does Google Need to Fix Page Title Rewrites?

The Title Tags update started just a week ago, but after criticism, Danny Sullivan responds with a potential plan aimed at trying to make it better

Following on from my recent post, since August 16th, Google has been altering titles in SERPs for certain pages. While no official information has yet been forthcoming from Google itself, SEOs believe the reason behind it is to improve the relevance of the content shown to users in search results.

Some people have responded to concerns and questions openly via Twitter.

One such exchange involved Danny Sullivan and more interestingly; an acknowledgement that as things stand, not everyone is happy with the fact that their page titles are being changed. He goes on to suggest possible solutions.

Danny seems in little doubt that when it comes to displaying the right text, the best text in SERPs, Google knows best. However he proposes a way to deliver more control to individuals over their title tags.

He mentions an “I really mean it” tag to lock in page titles and descriptions as-is, however he also casts doubts about how many might actually fall foul of such a feature:

“As I said on another tweet, I used to think exactly as I wrote there, that we should have a “I really really mean it” tag. And then you know what? You discover actually working for a search engine how many people would seriously get that wrong…

Like it’s not uncommon we hear from people who don’t understand why we don’t show a description for their web page. Even when we show a message explaining why — they blocked us: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/7489871″

Sullivan’s Proposal

Instead of the (possibly light-hearted) suggestion of the “I really mean it” tag, Sullivan admits that a like-minded feature might be the solution, albeit in a more limited capacity.

His proposal involves a Search Console update that would allow users to tell Google when they want a specific page’s HTML title in SERPs to remain exactly as it is:

“…I’d love to see us find a mechanism for site owners to very selectively indicate if there are problematic titles. Like perhaps in Search Console, you could say that you really wanted a HTML title tag used rather than our automatic choice…”

This potential solution would differ from a simple tag, as Sullivan also suggests limiting its use to around 5-10 times per site and it would come with an expiration period, to allow for identifying and correcting mistakes:

“My thought is that we could perhaps allow a set number per site, maybe 5-10, and also with an expiration period. That way people wouldn’t make whole scale long-term mistakes accidentally, but we have some balance for when our automatic title selection might not be preferred.”

5-10 uses however, are not a lot for sites with thousands, even millions of pages...

Sullivan goes on to clarify the solution wouldn’t be aimed at managing pages at those scales, but would be ideal for more limited use when you really have an issue with the title Google has decided to show in SERPs.

“The idea isn’t that you should manage millions of URLs. Our systems are already going to select titles. That is the scale. It’s an idea so that if there’s a particular few titles you really really really don’t like, you could deal with those.”

These recent tweets by Danny are certainly not confirmation of any workaround currently in the pipeline; however his words hint strongly that Google is not looking to offer a way to opt-out of page title rewrites across an entire site, possibly just offering a limited use feature in Search Console.

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