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Adjusted order of title tags - rankings tanked
internetheaven




msg:3729086
 7:34 pm on Aug 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

Past two days have shown a 65%+ decrease in traffic, we have around 250 pages. Last week I went through about 60 of them and adjusted the title tags to something I thought would be more appropriate. e.g. from:

"CompanyName - Get your keyword1, keyword2, keyword3 & keyword4 Quote Now from Company Name"

to

"CompanyName.com ¦ Company Name Keyword1 & Keyword2 Quotes"

as the extra two keywords were not really traffic pullers so I wanted to highlight our better offers. For this sort of change we lost rankings for "CompanyName Keyword1" and "Company Name Keyword1". Alternatively, all I did was rearrange the order e.g. from:

"Company Name ¦ Keyword1 & Keyword2's at CompanyName.com"

to

"CompanyName.com ¦ Keyword1 & Keyword2's from Company Name"

If it has just mainly been the first example that was dropping I would assume I had done something like lost "synonym value" or tripped one of the many theorised "Over-Optimization Filters".

But as simply the order changed on the majority am I safe to assume that this is just some sort of Trust-Rank loss due to a large portion of my titles having changed suddenly? Should I see my rankings come back in a few weeks once a Google update has passed and my titles appear fixed/static/steady?

Thanks
Mike

 

potentialgeek




msg:3729882
 8:55 am on Aug 24, 2008 (gmt 0)

You know it's also possible Google treats a re-titled page as a new page. Which is reasonable in some ways. And then it's not "penalized" but has to start at the 'bottom' like all new pages.

p/g

Gone




msg:3729891
 11:04 am on Aug 24, 2008 (gmt 0)

You're talking about title tags, but what about <h1> tags, is it safe to change them?

maximillianos




msg:3729900
 11:47 am on Aug 24, 2008 (gmt 0)

When the words are the same then re-arranging them and dropping from #1 to #214 seems more like a penalty than a natural result of any change.

I disagree. Take this example:

Sentence 1: Smiling, John took a shot at Mary
Sentence 2: John took a shot, smiling at Mary.

Two completely different sentences with completely different meanings... yet they have the exact same set of words, just re-arranged.

This is not 1999 any more. Google looks for more than just keywords in a title. They are looking to understand the title as well.

steveb




msg:3730088
 12:22 am on Aug 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

"is it safe to change them?"

It's perfectly safe to change title tags or H1 tags. All that happens is the words or ordering are judged differently.

steveb




msg:3730091
 12:27 am on Aug 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

"This is not 1999 any more."

That's for sure. The original example here destroyed all the page titles on the domain, so of course rankings will go down. Google likes a page title to say exactly what a page is about right up front, right in the same fashion as a query is types in the search box (and then also how it contextually makes sense on the page text).

Just sticking words in titles as if they are keywords, or cluttering a title with useless and repetitive wording is not going to "work" these days as well as it may have previously.

ispy




msg:3730096
 1:16 am on Aug 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

I think we may reading to much into what could just be the result of a buggy algorithm, and not some mastermind plan of the people at Google.

Does the streetlight always go off when you walk under it, or do you just notice it when it does and don't pay attention when nothing happens?

BeeDeeDubbleU




msg:3730245
 7:25 am on Aug 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

I don't think it is a buggy algorithm. Clearly the title tag is one of the more important on page factors in SEO. We should not be surprised that changes to the title affect a page's rank. This could be positive as well as negative.

internetheaven




msg:3730382
 12:30 pm on Aug 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

The change was about two weeks and they bounced back stronger...at least that was my exp.

It has since rebounded but was in the 950 tank for months.

So speed of recovery will really depend on the quality of your site to begin with it seems.

The original example here destroyed all the page titles on the domain, so of course rankings will go down.

If you're quoting my example, I actually only changed 60 out of 250 pages. And as for "destroyed", I fail to see how that word could be the best description considering I simply removed a few words and changed the order of some.

I don't think it is a buggy algorithm. Clearly the title tag is one of the more important on page factors in SEO.

Agreed. I understand the theory behind the penalty for the purposes of SERP relevancy and "SEO-fighting", I just hope that it is short lived in this instance.

glitterball




msg:3730528
 3:20 pm on Aug 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

I can confirm that the observation made in this thread is true.

A few weeks back, I changed the page title of the home page of one of my sites. We then went from #3-4 to #11 (and lost lots of business). I didn't even consider that the small change that I had made to the title was the cause.

Anyway, after reading this thread, I reverted to the old title on Saturday and we are now back at #4.

Thank you internetheaven for sharing this observation.

drall




msg:3730550
 3:42 pm on Aug 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

When it comes to Google now a days if it isnt broke dont fix it.

If you are compelled to fix it, fix it slowly running small a/b tests and wait at least 6 months to get a accurate data sample.

Then based off of these tests roll out required fixes slowly over the next 12 months.

Anything else is just inviting disaster.

simonlilly




msg:3730603
 4:28 pm on Aug 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

Great to read this as I recently reshuffled my Page Title tag to better reflect the content my website contains and saw a drop in position. I took a little dive of 2/3 places for some key phrases, but am returning back to my old position at the moment.

I think it's a temporary flux, that Google looks at your site and re-evaluates it.

ddogg




msg:3730659
 5:18 pm on Aug 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

I have a possibly related problem. I changed a small percentage of my internal pages' titles and since suffered a domain-wide rankings drop. My main pages' titles did not change yet my rankings dropped for those pages as well.

Does Google drop your 'trust score' or whatever it is if you make such a change? How long does it take to come back? The page titles I changed were for long tail, very UNcompetitive terms. New titles are still highly relevant, I just made sure I was using all appropriate keywords for my niche across all pages (i.e. some pages use keyword1, some keyword2 along with their 'product' name).

Note that I still rank high for some terms. The ones that dropped went from top 3 to 10-20th. So I would not say I was penalized, Google is more saying we don't trust you as much as we did so we aren't going to rank you quite as high domain-wide.

Funtick




msg:3730729
 6:53 pm on Aug 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

I noticed the same: whenever I (significantly) change page title, indexed pages and traffic drop 10 times.

Hovewer, only with significant changes... need to verify... My page titles are dynamic:
<Keyword_1> ... <Keyword_N> <Dynamic Number>

and this <dynamic number> changes daily... When I tried to change <keyword> - too much damages...

internetheaven




msg:3730744
 7:21 pm on Aug 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

I have a possibly related problem. I changed a small percentage of my internal pages' titles and since suffered a domain-wide rankings drop.

I hope I was clear in my posts that my situation was a change of 60 out of 250 pages and ONLY those 60 pages dropped in ranking. Some only 5-10 places, some 100+ places. My main pages whose titles I did not change did not drop at all.

Please could the other posters clarify whether they saw site-wide drops from changing a large number of inner pages?

steveb




msg:3730948
 12:23 am on Aug 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

"And as for 'destroyed', I fail to see how that word could be the best description considering I simply removed a few words and changed the order of some."

You changed the titles so that the same irrelevant words were first in the titles! You destroyed all the page titles by putting CompanyName.com first. That's the same as putting "Welcome" or "George Bush" as the first words. Not only that, you follow the useless domain name with the same redundant two words. These pages will have a hard time ranking for anything.

Changing titles is not dangerous, at least not anymore dangerous than changing anything ever. Making bad changes is very dangerous. Here we have many pages with duplicate wording at the beginning of every title. Page titles should be targeted for the content of the page, and not coincidentally the search term(s) you are targeting. Titling them all "Companyname.com Company Name" is suicide. Page titles are an important algorithmic component. The first three words of the title are what really matter so making them always the same will cause pages to tank. It's not change, it's a bad change.

internetheaven




msg:3731243
 9:00 am on Aug 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

Wow! Was settling in for the long haul but then checked the stats this morning and traffic is back to normal. Yesterday's visitor levels were the same as before the drop. Seems like all rankings are back in their original spots too (plus a few extras and some increases! yay!).

Four days. Guess I feel kind of good now because surely that indicates my site is stronger than I gave it credit for? :)

whitenight




msg:3731269
 9:30 am on Aug 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

Seems like all rankings are back in their original spots too (plus a few extras and some increases! yay!

Congrats

potentialgeek




msg:3731295
 10:18 am on Aug 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

> Note that I still rank high for some terms. The ones that dropped went from top 3 to 10-20th. So I would not say I was penalized, Google is more saying we don't trust you as much as we did so we aren't going to rank you quite as high domain-wide.

I'm still not sold on the idea of a penalty for changes or a ranking drop because of a drop in trust. It could just be considered more like a new page which starts with a new ranking score as opposed to an old score that has points deducted. Penalties for minor changes aren't reasonable. Trust loss for minor changes isn't reasonable. Do you think Google penalizes a site for correcting a spelling mistake in a title?

Also, it's not clear from the examples provided that all other variables remained the same.

> The first three words of the title are what really matter so making them always the same will cause pages to tank.

Says who? Since when? It's an internet myth. It would be ridiculous for Google, which knows there are reputable sites that put the site name first to penalize them. Further, it is not natural in the construction of a page title to cram the most important words into the first words. Titles will look contrived.

Nor is it necessarily possible to put all the important (relevant) words of a title into three words. Many titles naturally start with the word, "The." Google is not going to penalize sites with titles which start with that word and only look for the next two to count them as most important.

The related internet myth is that the first words on a page are given more weight. That idea was dismissed years ago.

p/g

whitenight




msg:3731314
 10:47 am on Aug 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

I'm still not sold on the idea of a penalty for changes or a ranking drop because of a drop in trust. It could just be considered more like a new page which starts with a new ranking score as opposed to an old score that has points deducted. Penalties for minor changes aren't reasonable. Trust loss for minor changes isn't reasonable. Do you think Google penalizes a site for correcting a spelling mistake in a title?

I think it's odd that people automatically started using the word "penalty" for what this is...

I specifically did NOT use the word "penalty" because of the above reasons (among more)

I also find it odd for people to instantly need to know "why it happens"
Lol, like the yo-yo thread, WHO CARES?!

- It simply happens.
- It doesn't happen to ALL sites.
- All things being equal, it happens much less with "authority" sites vs. other sites.
- All things being equal, it happens more severely and with considerably more frequency than "title tweaks" did in the past.

Now that everyone in this thread knows it is likely to happen, they can make appropriate adjustments to their strategies.
It's obviously already helped a few people.

Not sure why the over-analysis or the need to put this into the
"penalty" - "loss of trust" - "OOP" - "buggy algo" - "isn't different than before" theories.

It could be all of them or none and/or dependent on the site/page.
Simply be aware of it, and TEST accordingly...

potentialgeek




msg:3731415
 1:11 pm on Aug 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

Matt Cutts on Title Tags

Question: I always thought title tags should sound natural and not be keyword stuffed. Nowadays I am seeing companies keyword stuff their title tags and show up high on search engines. What do you recommend?

Answer: I would stick to what sounds natural and is best for the consumer. Most sites are ranking high not because of the title tag but because they have a well optimized site that has been around for a while and they simply decided to go over board and stuff the title tag. Google gives some points to the title tag, but it is best to think about the consumer and come up with titles that are compelling.

[hotel-online.com...]

whitenight




msg:3731426
 1:28 pm on Aug 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

:Yawn:

"Matt Cutts said.." what what? about who's what now?

lol

No offense, but that's same useless garbage they've always said.

Which is, of course, how I discovered the problem in the FIRST place.

Tweaking (NOT CHANGING) title tags for better click-thrus equaled many less-authoritative pages jumping around nuts which hadn't happened in the past.

Let's not confuse the issue with "what Google officially says".
So much kitty litter fodder.

Funtick




msg:3731475
 2:21 pm on Aug 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

I think they ("Matt Cutts") have effective algo ("effective" only these days) which causes website optimizers to stick with some specific "title tag"... subsequently it will cause Google to change their algos... probably next year.

Google already promises that they can separate dynamic content from static and show it in SERPs differently (so that for instance new site page will immediately appear in top-10 because Google believed it is very new and very dynamic, and after few days will go to 990)

My site is very dynamic and the only word in title tag which changes daily was "number" of "staff" listed on a "shelf". Whenever I stop "engine" after 1-2 months I have traffic spike; whenever I run it it goes 10 times down. Ok, I removed number from title... I noticed that title change has huge impact on SERPs last year; thanks to this topic - I didn't expect that dynamic "number" such as 12345 in title plays such ugly role for Google.

P.S.
Remaining question: Can we safely have dynamic META-Descrition tag?

Thanks!

steveb




msg:3731930
 9:27 pm on Aug 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

"It would be ridiculous for Google, which knows there are reputable sites that put the site name first to penalize them. Further, it is not natural in the construction of a page title to cram the most important words into the first words. Titles will look contrived."

Not natural to title a page what it is about? Where did you get THAT? C'mon, let's get back to reality here.

Trying to use a title to try and "brand" a website is just what it is, totally useless to a search engine. Google should and always will deduct points for the same redundant and useless information at the beginning of titles. This is SEO 101 stuff.

If a page is about George Washington, it's natural to title it "George Washington - First President of the US". At the same time, since the page is about Washington and much less so about "President of the US", it is common sense for Google to weight what comes first more than what comes later in a title. Titles are a way to send a clear signal to Google what your page is about, and what it is most about.

Google maybe could do more to lower the scores of websites that try use the SERPs to promote their brand at the expense of the user's experience, but they certainly do plenty now. Having redundant information in every title will never be a *positive* in ranking.

All the webmaster FUD aside, titles are important. Changing them to make them optimally reflect the content of your page is good, good for Google and good for users and good for you. Changing them in an illogical, useless to Google and nearly useless to users way, can cause rankings to go down.

If for some reason you want to poke Google in the eye and try to use your titles to brand your website, put the words at the end of the title, where the least important aspect should naturally go.

CainIV




msg:3732173
 6:28 am on Aug 27, 2008 (gmt 0)

Further, it is not natural in the construction of a page title to cram the most important words into the first words.

Actually, a proper descriptive and very relevant title it is natural and expected by search engines, and doing anything else is rather counter intuitive considering the role of the Title of document.

I find that websites who have more higher ranking pages in the SERP's take less of a hit overall in terms of 'wave' drops - where numerous pages drop rank. This might be due to the supporting pillar theory, where if there is a larger number of supporting pages in a website, removal of one from ranks creates a small ripple than if there are much less pages.

This only makes sense, specially in terms of site theming and the number of pages that are ranking well that do support the overall theme.

I have found that Title changes do cause drops, but that the pages do come back after a few weeks. The more titles at once that you change, the more severe the flux is.

internetheaven




msg:3732206
 8:08 am on Aug 27, 2008 (gmt 0)

I have found that Title changes do cause drops, but that the pages do come back after a few weeks. The more titles at once that you change, the more severe the flux is.

I was just coming on to state that as I remember we had a title tag overhaul before. At the beginning of the year we altered 12 pages (which were stronger than the 60 that just came back after four days) changing both the title tag and the content and no effects were noticed. This big change was just that, a big change - 60 pages out of 250.

Somewhere in the thread I think someone suggested only changing 1-2 pages per week over the course of a year. I think that is overly dramatic. What number/percentage of pages you can change without affecting your rankings will depend on the size and strength of your own site.

So probably not going to find a definitive answer in this thread as it depends on your site, but certainly some good points to think on. Thanks.

drall




msg:3732352
 1:34 pm on Aug 27, 2008 (gmt 0)

What I suggested is A/B testing over a 6 month period to see which tests provides the most favorable results and then rolling that out sitewide over a 12 month period.

[edited by: tedster at 6:34 pm (utc) on Aug. 27, 2008]

tedster




msg:3732487
 3:40 pm on Aug 27, 2008 (gmt 0)

Split testing, or even multivariate testing, is a very good tactic. But there are some issues with that approach especially for title tags. first is the obvious one that major corporate sites tend to get slightly different treatment because they are so heavily referenced around the web. But more than that, until a new title goes live, you will not see what the effects on ranking or clickthrough are going to be.

drall




msg:3732631
 6:29 pm on Aug 27, 2008 (gmt 0)

Large scale changes to such a aged and important aspect of your overall onpage seo effort will usually yield negative results with probable long term ramifications after aging factors have been calculated 6-12 months out without proper testing.

As was pointed out earlier in this thread by someone else that the days of making a change to see what works and what doesnít in short fashion are over.

I tend to think long term because of the clients I have as well as my own properties.

You are right Tedster, thatís why we do sampling across several static verticals and then collate and sample this data for everything from ctr to conversions to judge overall improvement to attain a desired effect.

Once that stage is complete and if results are favorable we then roll this out in scale with a set rollout period to not only gauge results but also alleviate the temporary negative effects that come from such changes.

webdude




msg:3732723
 7:49 pm on Aug 27, 2008 (gmt 0)

I have found that Title changes do cause drops, but that the pages do come back after a few weeks. The more titles at once that you change, the more severe the flux is.

Dumb thought here, but to me, it seems like G is putting a bit of time into a drop, and then after a bit more time, a comeback. LOL - Is this to see if you will change the title back? How long do you wait? I just did a major overhaul several months ago and stuck with it, no matter how much I wanted to change the titles back. End result, the pages rank better then they ever did. This was after taking an average drop of about 5 spots in the SERPs. Not only garnered the old #1 spots, but picked up a couple of more. So when the title changes, you get a drop and then it seems to be a waiting game. I wonder how many SEO types see a drop and go running to put that title back. That, to me, would be a clear indication to G that SEO is going on. So the question remains... how long do you wait?

Reno




msg:3732753
 8:34 pm on Aug 27, 2008 (gmt 0)

We should not be surprised that changes to the title affect a page's rank.

I agree, and in fact, I support Google's need to deal with title changes more strictly than text changes to other parts of a page. As tedster pointed out, they don't want webmasters tweaking their titles every third day just to see what happens.

What I definitely do not like or support is an open-ended penalty, if that is in fact what is happening to some people. It seems reasonable to me to give a page (NOT an entire site!) a one month downward hit if a title is changed, then bring it back to it's natural ranking 30 days later. That would discourage the endless tweaking, but would also allow webmasters to refine their titles as the content of a page changed over time.

We've discussed this before -- what Google is doing is making webmasters think twice about making ANY changes to their web pages, which is only making things more static. The web is meant to be dynamic, so it's a real shame that the most important online company seems to be -- purposely or inadvertently -- encouraging people to put up pages that are never touched again.

......................

Funtick




msg:3732757
 8:49 pm on Aug 27, 2008 (gmt 0)

Hi guys, what about dynamic Description META-tag? Can it show dynamic staff like "7 green widgets on bookshelf number 4" today, and "6 green widgets on bookshelf number 4" just because one green widget was sold? ANy such experience?

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