It’s been apparent for a while that Google sometimes makes small tweaks to titles, such as appending a brand name to the end of a title tag. However a more recent change has seen the search engine giant replace title tags with other relevant text from a webpage - most commonly so far the page’s H1 tag.
On Monday, August 16th, many SEOs began noticing their titles being completely rewritten. Tweets began to appear mentioning this ‘huge’ title rewrite on Google’s search engine results pages.
The scale and magnitude of these rewrites is still very much unknown at this early stage, although they’ve been happening regularly enough for multiple SEOs to notice the change.
It seems that although most of the time Google is rewriting title tags using H1 tags, it is more than just this. Brodie Clark suggests that this update isn’t limited to one or two factors. Instead he provided evidence of titles being taken from “internal links, image alt text, or even made up completely by Google.”
He goes on to present evidence of Google replacing a title with text found on another page of a website. There’s apparently no limit to where the search engine may pull title text from.
What Does Google Rewriting Title Tags Mean For SEOs?
While it is almost impossible to draw any meaningful conclusions about the effect Google rewriting title tags will have, there was key information provided by Google’s John Mueller during the Google Search Central SEO hangout recorded on September 3rd, 2021. Mueller confirmed that a page’s original title tag will still be used for ranking purposes, even when it’s replaced in the SERPs.
Google’s John Mueller on the Page Title Update
Mueller responded to the recent questions around this topic and especially those being asked about whether original title tags are relevant for rankings. He confirmed that is currently the case, although as we know Google likes to A/B test and change regularly, so this could change in the future.
Therefore, for the time being if your original title targets a keyword or keyword phrase that you deem to be pivotal or important, and that keyword isn’t featured in Google’s replacement, don’t worry - it’s still being used by Google’s search ranking algorithms.
Mueller also went on to add some clarity about whether SEOs should be changing their title tags to the ones Google chose following this recent rollout. Mueller says that’s not recommended. Google’s replacements aren’t superior titles, nor will they necessarily improve rankings if they were coded into the website.
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