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Adjusted order of title tags - rankings tanked

 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"


"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"


"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?




 3:34 pm on Sep 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

Hi Guys,

Has there been any movement on this over the last week or is everyone still of the opinion that there is nothing to worry about?



 3:51 pm on Sep 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

is everyone still of the opinion that there is nothing to worry about?

I have NEVER been of the opinion that there's nothing to worry about.

There's quite alot to "worry about" if you aren't familiar with HOW Goog views your site titles and how you tweak them

I've just clarified that Title tweaks are NOT a penalty, but that Goog has gotten 'cranky' about changes.

As always, TEST a couple pages to see how 'cranky' Goog is about your sites changes.


 5:47 pm on Sep 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

Out of 5 keyword combinations that I track for [alt. spelling / variant of location] and singular form of keyword, only one dropped 2 spots and has now recovered.

Interestingly, the same combinations using the plural form rank 2-3 positions lower on average (below the fold on page 1).

Now, a week later: 2 out of five combinations with "widget" (the one I removed from the title) have dropped one spot. One of the two is doing a bit of a dance, the other drop is now back to the place it had in July. - My conclusion: not related.

The combinations with "widgets" rank between 4 and 10, jumping up and down from day to day. I wish I could buy a clue as to what's going on.

Probably more productive to focus on adding good content, overall promotion of the site, and conversions. Worrying too much about jumping up or down a spot doesn't put any bread in my basket...


 1:37 am on Sep 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

I once adjusted the title to rfelct a search term I was ranking higher for, and I dropped in ranking, despite changing it back. The only other item changed was the text in the H1 tag, so I guess its time to change that back...


 6:59 am on Sep 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

Tweaking "meta-title" tags to affect ranking...is so easy for Google to spot...as they have exact history for each page they index and when/what are the elements of that page

The other factor not being discussed here is that when you change your "meta-title" tag information...this affects the balance with how the inbound links anchor text describes your page...(if you have inbound links..;-)

So working hard to get this right when the page is created...and then "set it and forget it" (uh-oh...I'm probably going to hear from ron popeil...;-)....is the best policy..

I never put the business name/domain name at the beginning of a "meta-title" .... it will dilute the uniqueness of a set of pages for this critical element (golden triangle - bots use this / serps listings use this / user see's this in the browser's chrome (top blue area)...

If anything...adjust some of your page content..keep it relevant to your subject matter...and let the "meta-title" introduce the content...


 2:54 pm on Sep 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

> The other factor not being discussed here is that when you change your "meta-title" tag information...this affects the balance with how the inbound links anchor text describes your page...(if you have inbound links.

Google could think of it this way:

Site A links to site B based on content described by page Title on site B. If the Title is changed on site B, Google can assume that is because the content has changed.

Therefore the link weight from Site A is lowered (or put on hold) until new inbound links confirm the value and relevance of the page. The lower IBL value lowers page ranking.

It's not a penalty per se; it just looks like one.



 9:56 pm on Sep 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

A few random thoughts and observations:

-- Clearly there is no "penalty" just for changing titles. One needs to understand what a penalty is; that term gets thrown around far too much.

-- What does seem apparent is that changing titles calls into question the trust put into those pages. I didn't say it affects rankings, necessarily. But knowing that algo's have a lot to do with assessing probabilities (e.g., of spam), title changes seem to have fallen into a category that can potentially be a predictor of spam at some level of confidence. This almost certainly has to do with the next two points:

-- Frequent tweaking is a problem almost certainly. Seen examples.

-- Larger, higher trust sites, seem largely immune.

Question: When do title changes (frequent, sitewide or other) also call into question the trust of the site, and/or affect a site's ability to rank for certain kw's?

-- I've seen some evidence that changes to a significant number of pages on a site can affect sitewide rankings. It was only a few years ago that people still scoffed at sitewide rankings measures and actions, but that is not really in question anymore. Some factors do affect G's perception of an entire site and given G's exceptional paranoia about spam these days, it seems at least a reasonable supposition that large scale (e.g., sitewide) page title changes might be taken not too differently than frequent changes are taken: As a sign of undesirable SEO activity.

-- When title changes do seem to be the culprit, time to recover varies widely. I know one site that's waited 3 months to recover, so please don't tell me it doesn't happen. (Only change: Sitewide page title changes, that affected rankings on core and related terms. Wasn't a case that some rankings went up while others went down...they all went down.)

-- The contention that the brand name should never be first in the page title may apply to most smaller websites, but it is a poor conclusion to offer as an absolute, IMO. While I can agree that the default approach might best be keywords first, it's not the only good approach. Especially in the case of trusted brands, sometimes the brand name upfront significantly improves CT's in the organic SERP's and if one's site is already kicking butt in the rankings, the presence of the brand name upfront can make significant differences for the better in overall revenues, given the differences in click rates. Again, helps to see it in action. ;-)

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