Google is starting to replace existing title tags in SERPs with other relevant text from a webpage.
Since 16th August SEOs are noticing that Google has begun rewriting title tags for a limited number of pages in its search results, often replacing them with a page’s H1 tag.
Google are of course, well known for tweaking titles in SERPs, appending a business’s name to the end is one of the more common examples. This time it is slightly different, because Google is completely overriding those titles with different text.
Many SEO’s took to Twitter on the same day the changes began, mentioning a “Massive” title rewrite in SERPs. While the scale itself can’t be ascertained at the moment, it is certainly significant enough for many SEOs to come across already and to voice their concerns.
Some are seeing evidence of text pulled in from H1 tags, others are seeing Google replace a page’s title with anchor text from other internal links and in some instances, dates are being inserted into files.
It has long been the case with Meta Descriptions that Google may decide to grab any relevant text from a webpage to display in SERPs, the aim being to adjust those descriptions dynamically to deliver the best possible matches for queries.
Some SEOs are hypothesizing that this update isn’t limited to any one factor, instead it may be an algorithmic approach aimed at creating better titles, either from the header tag or from anywhere else, even other pages.
Interestingly, when Google has rewritten a title, it is almost always shorter than the original, possible proof that the reason behind the update is to improve overall readability and fine-tune relevant results.
The impact for SEOs
Many expect Google to notify SEOs and share more information on these changes sooner, rather than later. In the meantime, drawing solid conclusions is difficult.
Google is well known for running A/B tests in live search results from time to time, making it possible that what we are currently seeing will return to normal soon.
But maybe not...
It is just as possible that this is the initial stage of a more permanent change in the ways Google handles titles in search snippets, more relevant titles are after all, more compelling to click on.
Should SEOs be concerned..? John Mueller had this to say back in 2016; yes titles are important, but are they worth the levels of stress and anxiety that some were feeling back then?
“Titles are important! They are important for SEO. They are used as a ranking factor. Of course, they are definitely used as a ranking factor, but it is not something where I’d say the time you spend on tweaking the title is really the best use of your time.”
The key takeaway so far for the SEOs of today is that this change has appeared to have little impact on rankings for those whose titles have been rewritten, hinting that the change, if permanent will not make their jobs any harder.