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Google Changing Page Titles & Descriptions
TheMadScientist




msg:4268828
 5:05 am on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

Does anyone have a good reason why Google couldn't just leave my home page title and description alone when I put noodp on the page?

I personally can't think of one. I can understand wanting to let their users know what the site has, but there's NO WAY they know the other titles and descriptions on the SERP pages better than I know them for my niche, and there's NO WAY they know what stands out on that page or results better than I do, so why do they need to mess with my home page title and description, especially when the page contains a noodp robots tag?

I don't mind if they want to convert ALL CAPS to First Letter Only or truncate it when it's too long, but I wish they would not change the text when I indicate I don't want it changed by using a meta robots noodp tag.

 

incrediBILL




msg:4269254
 9:53 pm on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

Don't forget the other directive as NOYDIR and NOODP should probably be used in tandem.

Other than those two exceptions, I've never seen a title changed if it actually exists in the HTML, very odd.

TheMadScientist




msg:4269258
 9:56 pm on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

Maybe you just haven't been looking for it? Try searching for Computer, read the title for Apple in the results, then click the link and look at what the title really is...

ADDED: Good point on the NoYDir use too.
ADDED x 2: The title in the SERPs is not their DMOZ or YDir title either.
Went there; checked those.

incrediBILL




msg:4269265
 10:19 pm on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

Searching for "computer", the only "Apple" I saw was for Apple.com and it was the home page.

I spot checked a bunch of sites and the title was the title.

Are we talking Google.com, Google.co.uk, which one?

Are you using Google Instant, or the old interface?

TheMadScientist




msg:4269267
 10:21 pm on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

What was the title in the SERPs, then what is the title on the home page?

The SERP title (for me anyway) is Apple Computer, Inc., which is incorrect for Apple...
Apple Computer is Apple Inc. They used to be Apple Computer, Inc. but in 2007 they changed to Apple Inc.

incrediBILL




msg:4269273
 10:30 pm on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

The "Apple Computer, Inc." is from DMOZ, and in YDIR it's "Apple Inc."

If you search for "Apple", you get the proper title, if you search for computer you get one of the 2 variants above in Google, Yahoo or Bing, seems to be a fairly common practice.

TheMadScientist




msg:4269280
 10:44 pm on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

This is the DMOZ page I was looking at:
http://www.dmoz.org/Computers/Companies/Apple_Inc./

Ah, they have it different in different places...
http://www.dmoz.org/Computers/Systems/Apple/Macintosh/

incrediBILL




msg:4269289
 11:07 pm on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

Here's what Google has to say about Titles and Descriptions in the SERPs:
Google's creation of sites' titles and descriptions (or "snippets") is completely automated and takes into account both the content of a page as well as references to it that appear on the web.

We use a number of different sources for this information, including descriptive information in the META tag for each page. Where this information isn't available, we may use publicly available information from DMOZ. While accurate meta descriptions can improve clickthrough, they won't impact your ranking within search results. We frequently prefer to display meta descriptions of pages (when available) because it gives users a clear idea of the URL's content. This directs them to good results faster and reduces the click-and-backtrack behavior that frustrates visitors and inflates web traffic metrics.

While we're unable to manually change titles or snippets for individual sites, we're always working to make them as relevant as possible. You can help improve the quality of the snippets displayed for your pages by providing informative meta descriptions for each page.

[google.com...]

Apparently it's all automated, and it looks like titles can derive from the meta descriptions which is what I saw in a couple of examples, so if you have a short title or one that isn't very descriptive it appears a good meta description will give you more control.

TheMadScientist




msg:4269309
 12:38 am on Feb 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

Hopefully the Mods will let this post stay, but I understand if it needs to be removed.

### # ###

I am not technically the owner of the site I am referring to in this thread, but refer to it in the 1st person (as the owner) for ease of discussion.

In the interest of disclosure: I am a member of the Ownership LLC, co-founder of the site and hold a position in the company owning the site, but my views, ideas and opinions posted as TheMadScientist should in no way be considered the views of the company or companies owning the site I am referring to, any sites I work on, refer to or have even an indirect interest in. My posts are solely my personal views, opinions and ideas.

### # ###

That said, I have put the site I've referred to in this thread in my profile for those who have not seen the title changing or what can be highly negative effects.

The 2 word search phrase in question can be found by removing the word Address from the 3 word phrase in green text on the home page. (I prefer to not post it here, even in my profile, for what should be obvious ranking reasons.)

To see the difference the change makes on the SERPs page, search Google for the phrase and find the page, then search Bing (where the title is not changed) for the same phrase and the difference and reason for the drop in clicks due to the title change should be apparent.

aakk9999




msg:4269336
 2:13 am on Feb 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

I am not sure if this is a wise idea at all, but what about adding cca 60 x &nbsp; into <title>? Perhaps try on a "throw away" page or domain first?

You may end up with a very long underline though...

buckworks




msg:4269339
 2:49 am on Feb 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

Just today I was going over some instances of unwanted title rewriting with my SEO client's technical team.

For most of the title rewriting we found, we were able to figure out where Google seemed to be pulling the altered wording from, and made some changes which we hope will reduce the rewriting.

However, there is one search where we have two pages ranking. Normally that would be a good thing, but one of the pages is a serious misfit for that search, and Google has added a keyword to the title that is flatly wrong and misleading for the content on the page. We have not figured out where Google has pulled that keyword from, it makes no sense at all.

Users who click that search result won't find the product they're being led to expect by Google's uninvited editing, because it doesn't exist on that page.

Grrrrr ...

TheMadScientist




msg:4269345
 3:49 am on Feb 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

I am not sure if this is a wise idea at all, but what about adding cca 60 x &nbsp; into <title>?

That sounds like something I would do! LOL

Love the creativity, but honestly I would cloak the title with a couple of extra words 1st. I'm not going to change it on the page that displays because Google refuses to leave it alone.

For most of the title rewriting we found, we were able to figure out where Google seemed to be pulling the altered wording from, and made some changes which we hope will reduce the rewriting.

Yeah, I just updated the sentence they were getting it from and re-edited the description today, so I'll see what happens over the next couple of days and go from there.

It's been a huge change (drop off) in clicks for me since they decided what it should be.

As if it's not enough work to have to build a site, optimize it, and basically code everything twice for IE ... Now we have to find and change text on the page to try and keep our clicks up when G decides our titles are better their way.

tedster




msg:4269371
 6:45 am on Feb 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

Google has added a keyword to the title that is flatly wrong and misleading for the content on the page. We have not figured out where Google has pulled that keyword from

Have you checked the Cached page linked from the search result?

TheMadScientist




msg:4269387
 7:59 am on Feb 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

I should note:

The text change to the title on the site I've been talking about was discovered in some 'dofollow' links that were offsite. They should have been nofollow and someone tried to nofollow them, but it was done incorrectly. I didn't even think to double check them, because I know the owner of the site and assumed they were correct ... I guess one 'take away' from this thread is double (and triple) check everything, even off site areas where you think things are being handled correctly, because you know the person and they are usually very reliable.

The links are all nofollow now (I think - I will triple check them over the weekend to make sure), so it should be interesting to see how things play out over the next few days.

Huge thanks to indyank who noticed the error! ;)

Robert Charlton




msg:4269394
 8:27 am on Feb 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

TheMadScientist - Yep, you're absolutely right. The coolness factor is completely blown, and your title's conversion message, implicit in the brand name, is buried when the title blends in with the rest of the titles returned.

I just updated the sentence they were getting it from and re-edited the description today.

I'm seeing the two word phrase in current page description right at the start.

Am also curious whether the two-word search you describe might be enough to cause Google to pull those two words from the three-word phrase that's often on the page.

Also, you've got <abbr title="TwoWord Phrase"> all over your page. If there were such a thing as abbr title stuffing, you've done it. This might in fact be a good test of whether the abbr tag used with the title attribute is read by Google. The tag might be how Google identifies a lot of abbreviations.

Additionally, I'm assuming the two-word phrase exist in inbound links to your page, and this too would send strong signals.

This one example is enough to make me suggest that we need a meta robots "nomesswithme" attribute. (I've already voted for a "Leave It Alone" search button).

TheMadScientist




msg:4269400
 9:03 am on Feb 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

nomesswithme ... lmao

If there were such a thing as abbr title stuffing, you've done it.

I do my best! lol

Actually, as far as the abbreviations go, that's an 'automatic thing' for me ... If I use an abbreviation I put abbr tags around it, where ever it is, mainly because imo it's proper markup.

Been doing it for years actually and hadn't really thought about it being an issue at all, because I figured if I could spell whatever I'm abbreviating out on the page, then there should be no issue with indicating it's an abbreviation when the abbreviation is used on the page.

I'm not doing it at all to try and stuff I just think it's proper markup.

I would think stuffing would be 'TwoWord Phrase Keyword Keyword Keyword TwoWord Phrase YouGetThePoint', but not indicating an abbreviation is an abbreviation? I could be mistaken though.

Yep, you're absolutely right. The coolness factor is completely blown, and your title's conversion message, implicit in the brand name, is buried when the title blends in with the rest of the titles returned.

Glad you're seeing what I'm talking about, because IMO as a 'stand alone title' it's totally cool and tells the whole story, but when they fuzz it up it just doesn't look at all cool any more, in fact I probably wouldn't click on the title they gave it either, even though the site is exactly the right answer for the query, and in fact, afaik it's the only correct answer for the query.

caribguy




msg:4269406
 9:30 am on Feb 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

Yep... in our case, the smartypants decided that [brand name] Logo is the appropriate title when people search for [brand name]

That particular text happens to be the alt tag for the logo image which links to home page.

Just changed this, let's see how quickly it gets picked up.

pageoneresults




msg:4269431
 12:45 pm on Feb 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

But any machine algo is going to make mistakes some percentage of the time.


Yes it will. And, you have some level of control over it. Machine algo? Well, the machine algo needs machine readable grammar to function at its best.

And so far, they have given us no way to participate in this part of experiment.


Oh yes they have! Proper HTML formatting, semantic structure, etc. Most of the title edits I've seen have come from <h> elements on the page and/or that which immediately follows the <h> element. If no <h> element is there where they are expecting to see it, then the next best thing is used, whatever is there, in this case, a <p> element where it appears an <h> element should be?

I've seen more positive results with valid HTML and use of proper markup. Fragment IDs on <h> elements appear to also be a factor in these title edits.

A machine algo needs machine readable grammar. Its best if that machine readable grammar is without errors too. You know, that whole validation thing that everyone blows off.

Based on my experience, many of those title edits come from markup that immediately follows the <body> element. I don't see titles getting generated for stuff that sits further down in the HTML. But, I don't look at this stuff every day like you folks do either. :)

P.S. I wonder why this doesn't happen to the documents I manage? Hmmm, must be the valid, semantically correct HTML that does it.

TheMadScientist




msg:4269435
 1:23 pm on Feb 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

Its best if that machine readable grammar is without errors too. You know, that whole validation thing that everyone blows off.

P.S. I wonder why this doesn't happen to the documents I manage? Hmmm, must be the valid, semantically correct HTML that does it.

LMAO ... You obviously haven't looked at the site I've been referring to in this thread ... Why don't you go see if it validates and then maybe you'll have some idea of what's going on.

I wonder if the CSS is valid too, don't you?

pageoneresults




msg:4269438
 1:39 pm on Feb 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

Why don't you go see if it validates and then maybe you'll have some idea of what's going on.


LMAO too! Note my comments above, validation was secondary. I was referring to semantic structure which in many instances accompanies valid markup. In this case though, there may be some mixed signals being sent. I see a bunch of <p> elements and little to no semantic structure. So, Google is doing its best at guessing here and grabbing the first instance of a match. In your case, it is going to be something from within a <p> element. I see one <h> element in the document.

Am I looking at the right site? I think I am. I performed the search query in question and what would you expect? The document may not have an adequate title for one and then the rest of the page is pretty much empty. Google has done its best to assemble a title for you based on little to no content.

Since your title is a whole 8 characters long (not including ), Google have done you a favor and optimized it for you. I'm serious, what would you expect them to do in this instance? Sure, it could leave your title alone but it does nothing for the searcher. Their algo is able to at least put together a reasonable title that is relative to the searcher's query. Maybe you could do that and not rely on Google's guessing algo to get it right?

And here I thought you were TheMadScientist! ;)

[edited by: pageoneresults at 1:41 pm (utc) on Feb 19, 2011]

TheMadScientist




msg:4269439
 1:41 pm on Feb 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

View the stinking source code.
There's 281 lines of HTML you seemed to have missed in your haste.

EDITED: Trying to make sure my post don't sound too personal.

[edited by: TheMadScientist at 1:54 pm (utc) on Feb 19, 2011]

TheMadScientist




msg:4269441
 1:49 pm on Feb 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

Since your title is a whole 8 characters long (not including ), Google have done you a favor and optimized it for you.

...

Their algo is able to at least put together a reasonable title that is relative to the searcher's query.

You think an abbreviation of the exact query isn't relevant ... You're also one of the few people I've heard from who hasn't understood what I've been talking about ... Thanks for the comments.

[edited by: TheMadScientist at 1:58 pm (utc) on Feb 19, 2011]

pageoneresults




msg:4269444
 1:54 pm on Feb 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

I dig when people compliment me on my genius. :)

I did review the source, what is it that you want me to look at? I see the meta robots, I see the title, description. Your title is too short and so is the meta description. Google actually throw warnings about these in GWT.

My genius appears to be lacking this early Saturday morning so please do provide a little more insight. I've read the thread, I know why your title is getting modified by Google. For one, it is too short. Two, it is lacking in meaning.

I've viewed the site with CSS off, and yes, I can see the content. Again, I'm going to make reference to the lack of document structure; An 8 character title, a 71 character meta description, one <h> element and a bunch of <p>s wrapped in <div>s.

So tell me, what do you want Google to do for you here? I know, just display the title as is along with your meta description right? Well, they can't. Mainly because from a user perspective, the title is not descriptive enough for the consumer. And then the page doesn't really have a solid semantic structure.

[edited by: pageoneresults at 2:00 pm (utc) on Feb 19, 2011]

TheMadScientist




msg:4269445
 1:56 pm on Feb 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

My genius appears to be lacking this early Saturday morning so please do provide a little more insight.

Nope ... You're obviously way smarter than me.

pageoneresults




msg:4269449
 2:08 pm on Feb 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

Nope ... You're obviously way smarter than me.


Probably far from it. I'm just using some logical deduction here based on what I'm looking at. If you read previous topics on Google's changes in this area, there is plenty of discussion on what triggers that which ails you young man. ;) I did my best to explain it from my perspective, but since we're now in defensive mode, anything I say will just go in one and out of the other.

Seriously, you're going to have challenges with an 8 character title, it is a given. ;)

freejung




msg:4269450
 2:22 pm on Feb 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

Have you considered the possibility that this is an "if you can't beat them, join them" situation?

The results above you frankly don't deserve to be there. You should be #1 for this SERP, not #7. If you were #1, your clickthrough would be just fine even with the title G gave you.

If I were you, I would try changing your title to [brand] - [two-word keyphrase]

Do that, remove the middle word from your H1, change the class="HDG" p elements to H2s and I bet your ranking will go up significantly. You should be #1 for this, you're the only result on the page that really makes sense.

TheMadScientist




msg:4269452
 2:22 pm on Feb 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

Seriously, you're going to have challenges with an 8 character title, it is a given. ;)

But I shouldn't that's the point.

If a searcher can't figure out from the abbreviation in the title and the description (the one on the page that hasn't been cached yet) that the site does exactly what they searched for, then they need help not even Google can give them.

I'm VERY glad Bing doesn't feel their searchers have the same level of stupidity Google seems to think their users have to change something concise and precise, which is the answer to something longer, so their searchers can figure it out.

As far as semantics go, the order of importance is simple for a bot to figure out... It goes from the top down. The <header> is the header. The H1 is the heading of the following content. The <footer> is the footer. It really doesn't need H2s or H3s or H4s ... I know, because Bing has it nailed, and so does Google for topicality, what they don't have nailed is the ability of short and concise to communicate plenty when the site fits exactly what the searcher searched for.

There are also plenty of other sites that have titles as short as the one we're referring to displayed in the SERPs, so maybe it's links more than anything, but whatever the reasoning, the reality is they really don't need to change the title on the site we're talking about any more than the ones that are shorter that they leave alone, because quite a bit can be communicated in 8 or less characters.

In fact if you look at the results in Bing you'll see the difference on the results page... IDK if you did that or not, but on Bing the title and description work just fine, and absolutely jump out.

[edited by: TheMadScientist at 2:26 pm (utc) on Feb 19, 2011]

freejung




msg:4269454
 2:26 pm on Feb 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

Neither Google nor Bing has it nailed. You are not #1 in either.

TheMadScientist




msg:4269456
 2:31 pm on Feb 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

Yeah, I thought about adding the H2 elements, and I might ... As far as rankings go, it was at #2 in Google.

I'll get it back up there (soon) but I'm probably going to have to change things to do it, and it's a bit silly imo, because it's definitely the right answer for the query.

[edited by: TheMadScientist at 2:32 pm (utc) on Feb 19, 2011]

freejung




msg:4269457
 2:32 pm on Feb 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

To elaborate -- I'm sorry, TMS, but P1R has a point. I see what you're saying about clickability, your brand is very catchy. However, you are the perfect result for this SERP, perhaps the _only_ perfect result at least on the root of a domain rather than a subpage. You should be #1.

It is quite possible that the only reason you're not #1 is that, semantically, you're insisting on telling G that you're _not_ a perfect match for this phrase, even though you actually are.

Give it a try, it can't hurt since G is mangling your title anyway. Which would you prefer -- #7 with a title you have emotional attachment to, or #1 with a title you don't like?

TheMadScientist




msg:4269458
 2:33 pm on Feb 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

#7 with a title you have emotional attachment to, or #1 with a title you don't like?

I'm going to give it a few days and then decide ... I might just cloak the title for them since they're doing it for me. lol

ADDED: There are actually some things I can't change right now, but will be able to if I need to in a week or so.

[edited by: TheMadScientist at 2:42 pm (utc) on Feb 19, 2011]

freejung




msg:4269459
 2:34 pm on Feb 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

I was posting at the same time, sorry. You're only 30 days old?

Oh, in that case don't worry about it. You'll float to the top within a few months, virtually guaranteed.

What I would do is change your title for now, get the rankings boost, leave it that way for a few months and then change the title back. By then G will recognize that your brand is synonymous with the query (you could be the "bandaid" of this niche), and will probably give you the title you want.

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