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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.

 

caribguy




msg:4269885
 8:05 pm on Feb 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

G stopped displaying our title as Brand Logo after I replaced the logo image alt text with a more descriptive sentence.

Rather than displaying the correct title Brand - description of services it is now using the brand name only. Not a problem...

tedster




msg:4269887
 8:07 pm on Feb 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

Is your logo image wrapped in an H1, by any chance?

TheMadScientist




msg:4269953
 1:34 am on Feb 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

ADDED: I thought tedster's question was for me, so I answered below. lol

No, the logo image is a css background.

The text that was in the title was from one of the 1st p's on the page (there were 2 small ones above the h1), and the bg image isn't attached to either. It's attached to the element below where the h1 is now (where the p was before) in the source code.

In the interest of 'knowing something' I've been trying to make only 1 change per re-spidering to see if I can find a fix or at least a guess at a fix.

The first thing I did was change the text in the <p> it appeared to be coming from. The second thing I did was move the <h1> tag up to where the <p> tag used to be and changed what was the <h1> to an <h2>.

Rather than displaying the correct title Brand - description of services it is now using the brand name only. Not a problem...

Hmmmm... Interesting... And very interesting you think brand name only is NOT an issue... There are those who would disagree. (If anyone hasn't read the entire thread; I'm not one of the people who would disagree, it's actually what I would like.)

Have your click throughs changed since the change of the title to Brand, and if so, which direction did they go, up or down?

caribguy




msg:4269958
 2:32 am on Feb 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

@tedster - It's a 3 column layout, with a header row of images at the top that spans all three columns. The h1 is at the top of the center (2nd) column.

The homepage link that G picked up is at the top left of the header row. After changing the alt text from Example Logo, it is now:


<div id="th-row">
<a href="http://www.example.com"
title="Return to the Example Homepage"><img
id="logo" src="http://www.example.com/logo.jpg"
alt="Example Corp - [descriptive text]" /></a>
<div class="th-image">
<img src="http://www.example.com/example-images/example-11.jpg?display=header"
alt="Example header image" />
</div>
[..]
</div>


Note: correcting myself above: neither the original title element nor the h1 contain the brand name, only a description of the service.

tedster




msg:4269962
 2:43 am on Feb 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

So it's a stupid bug for Google to be adding the word "logo" to your title, then. It's not what you want and it's probably not even what they thought they programmed.

indyank




msg:4269964
 3:37 am on Feb 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

I think that this is what they programmed it as. i.e. title your site or page as how others refer to you (link to you).So, if caribguy has decent number of links using only the brand name as anchor text, then G might have titled it with only the brand name.

Infact some sites I know are now having titles altered with text by which they are linked to by most.This happens when I do a search for the domain name without the extension.

However site: domain.com return the proper on page title for Home page.

TheMadScientist




msg:4269966
 3:42 am on Feb 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

When they base the title in the SERPs on linked text, what are people going to do to get the title they want in the SERPs? Hmmm ... Let me think for a minute...

And they want people to stop gaming links?
These guys seem really smart in someways, but completely stupid in others.

[edited by: TheMadScientist at 3:45 am (utc) on Feb 21, 2011]

indyank




msg:4269967
 3:44 am on Feb 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

No, they use the links and your on page text at prominent locations (h tags or whatever).If they both match, they believe that it is correct.

TheMadScientist




msg:4269969
 3:52 am on Feb 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

So to make sure I get the title I want I need to put the text on the page in a prominent location, then make sure I have plenty of links with that text? Simple

As soon as they make the displayed title based (even in part) on an off-page factor (external links), they are forcing people to take control of that off-page factor to be in control of their own title in the SERPs, and people will, because it's IMPORTANT.

They really make their own job harder than it needs to be with some of the 'neat' things they do.

ADDED: Really think about it for a minute ... They're taking control of our title in the SERPs. Eventually we'll figure out what it's based on and take control bask ... All they're doing is making more work for everyone.

They work to change the title; we work to change it back.
end result = extra work for all of us, to keep the title in the SERPs the same as it is on the page. ShakeMyHead!

Yeah, there's some who won't do it or won't know, but those of us who do this for a living will just game the title changing system to get the title we want, and what good is a title re-writing system if we're in control of the factors they're using to rewrite the title, which we will take control of if we have to ... Huge thanks to the G engineers for doing a bunch of work to create some extra work for us site owners.

indyank




msg:4269971
 4:30 am on Feb 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

They believe that they are helping you with your titles by doing the extra work for you. :) But you feel that you will be doing some extra work.

Looks like all this helps in creating more work (jobs?) not just for United States but for the whole world. lol..

caribguy




msg:4269982
 5:35 am on Feb 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

So, if caribguy has decent number of links using only the brand name as anchor text

Just checked in WMT: 'brand logo' was the 37th most used anchor text. I'm pretty sure it was not used anywhere other than as the alt image text (not anchor text) for the homepage link on our site.

The brand name itself has this format [verb][location] - spelled as one word. The 11th most used anchor text is [verb] [location] - separated by a space.

So, all things considered, I'm happy that G at least did not mangle the brand name :)

Also interesting that a search for [brand] [name] returns "Did you mean [brandname]?' - with the full title as used on the site in the results.

flashdash




msg:4270011
 8:47 am on Feb 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

I was going to ask the same thing, thanks for bringing this up.

I have somewhat popular site with a useful tool that get people to search for it using widgetwidget.com. Over 70% of traffic is direct. The rest comes from google using "widget widget" or "widgetwidget.com".

The keywords are for a brand and not one of those buy widget today.com it.

So unstead of the coded title or H1 tag, which are 100-150 characters, G changed the title to keywords in domain.

I changed the title to something else. Few days later, G it to completly different keywords from the home page!

TheMadScientist




msg:4270012
 9:07 am on Feb 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

I changed the title to something else. Few days later, google change it to completly different keywords from the home page!

I have to just shake my head and laugh sometimes.

<sarcasm>Don't you know this is Good?</sarcasm>
LMAO!

I'm sorry flashdash, I'm not sure what to tell you because I haven't found a solution yet, but I'm going to keep trying things for a bit and see what happens. I think it's ridiculous they do it, especially on the home page of a site, but they seem to be pretty proud of the fact they can change your title... I can do that too, yes, even with an algo, but I wouldn't, unless maybe it was 'www.example.com' or 'Home' or something else totally generic.

<aside>
I read an interesting post today on the Bing blog that talked about personalization of results and how it seems often times trying to determine the finite nuances of every bit of micro data over-complicates things and doesn't always work out for the best ... I think the micro management Google is attempting over-complicates what should be simple and straight forward sometimes.
<aside>

One thought I just had is could the title changing have the appearance of traffic throttling in stats?

EG: They change the title to something that 'gets clicks' then change it to something that 'blends in' (like the did mine) and keep 'testing' back-and-forth to try and get it right, so the traffic goes up and down, which could appear as throttling when it's really nothing more than playing.

Maybe not, but it seems plausible.

flashdash




msg:4270129
 4:18 pm on Feb 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

EG: They change the title to something that 'gets clicks' then change it to something that 'blends in'


I don't think so. In my case at least.
Imagine a user typing Brand Brand or Brand Brand.com (because they seem to google even easier names these days). Would the user click if the results returns "Keyword Keyword" in title?

I know most user don't look at the URL, so this could cost me some traffic. i.e. users shaking their head thinking where is "Brand Brand".

I'm tempted to change the title to "Brand Brand" only, but I'm after another "keyword keyword" I keep in the title.

Kirby




msg:4270187
 6:47 pm on Feb 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

I ran into this with a client using a Wordpress theme from Studiopress (used SP code as example below). Google didnt use the title attribute, instead picking up asentence in the body. The client wondered why G didnt use the <h1>. I attributed it to the way the theme handles the <h1> element on the homepage by putting it in a div in the header.


<div id="header">
<div class="wrap">
<div id="title-area"><h1 id="title"><a href="http://www.studiopress.com/" title="StudioPress - Premium WordPress Themes">StudioPress - Premium WordPress Themes</a></h1><p id="description">Professional WordPress Websites</p>
</div><!-- end #title-area -->


It doesnt appear anywhere in the content area. Any thought on how Google may treat this with regard to changing the title?

TheMadScientist




msg:4270192
 7:04 pm on Feb 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

From what I can tell it seems to be based on inbound links (and search query specific, to a point, I think? lol) ... I thought inbound links and on-page text, but the more I'm reading and making on-page changes with no effect on the title in the SERPs the more I think the link lovers are at it again and using inbound link text (on and off site) to make title changes.

Just my thoughts ... I don't have any hard data to back it up, except a lack of change to the SERPs title from on-page changes ... I should know if the most recent round had any effect in a day or two.

I'm also starting to wonder if the on-page title change and subsequent SERP title change to a second 'GoogleTitle' noted by flashdash above is just a coincidence and would have happened without the on-page title change?

tedster




msg:4270198
 7:18 pm on Feb 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

I've got a new client where Google SHOULD have changed their titles and didn't. 12,000 duplicate page titles and descriptions, and they're not even called out in Webmaster Tools.

TheMadScientist




msg:4270206
 7:22 pm on Feb 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

So, they fix it for those of us who have a clue about what we're doing and miss it with those who need the help? Lovely! lol

I wonder if there's a 'same text in % (or number) of links' threshold that has to be met for the changing system to kick-in?

If the pages you're talking about are long-tail (I'm guessing with 12,000 they are) then the link text frequency / number of links with the same text (other than the actual title) necessary to trigger a change might not be met, especially if the links on the site contain the title text, EG on sitemaps, or even regular pages?

My guess is quite a few of the inbound links to a site that large on a per-page basis are the title from scrapers, etc. too unless they're really worked to build deep links, which would mean a link based title change wouldn't change the titles on those pages.

tedster




msg:4270208
 7:34 pm on Feb 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

They've got some great backlink anchor text - and even some decent text near the top of the page content. However, the H1 tags are also duplicated throughout the site. I guess the algo just wrote it off as hopeless

TheMadScientist




msg:4270214
 7:39 pm on Feb 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

lol ... Why can't I get the stinkin' thing to do that with my title?!

GRRRRRR... They've got it wired backward!
Would you guys @ G please connect the red to the red and the black to the black, pleeeeease? TIA

realmaverick




msg:4270703
 7:46 pm on Feb 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

So for me, the text they've decided to use for my homepage isn't even on the homepage itself. It's out of date and not in keeping with my websites content.

I cannot find WHERE the text is coming from. It's not ODP or YDIR or any sentence on my god damn home page. I've viewed the source and it's nowhere to be seen. It's driving me nuts and has reduced the CTR.

It might be their search engine, but it's my damn page. I've used all of the correct tags to ensure they use my title and still they think they're god and can do pretty much what they please.

I hate that I need them. I hate that they know I need them. I hate them.

TheMadScientist




msg:4270710
 7:55 pm on Feb 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

@realmaverick ... I feel ya!

I know exactly how you're feeling and where you're coming from. The one I've been talking about in this thread went from getting clicks from Google to 1 in the last 3 days (where the searcher has not clicked my profile link first). No Joke. I've gotten more real clicks out of a nofollowed link in a blog comment than Google.

It's definitely NOT fun or cool.

pageoneresults




msg:4270716
 8:12 pm on Feb 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

I cannot find WHERE the text is coming from. It's not ODP or YDIR or any sentence on my god damn home page.


Google have stated that they may use inbound anchor text and append titles that are less than descriptive for their algo. Google say...

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.


There is a way to control this to some degree. Your on page content is going to be the biggest determining factor as to what Google may "grab" in a guessing scenario. Yes, it's a guessing game for them because they have to figure out what the document is about without a good descriptive <title> reference.

So the next best thing for them is the META Description. Shorter descriptions are not going to perform as well as longer descriptions. They need to be written using an Inverted Pyramid Writing approach so that you are targeting the broadest range of potential keyword combinations that are relevant to the search query.

If you've got a 8 character branded title, a 70 character short description, then the next best thing for a machine algo is the content that appears directly after the <body> element. This is where proper semantic structure comes into play and the first thing I always suggest is an <h1> where it naturally belongs, at the beginning of the content and/or section it is relevant to. You can have multiple <h1> per document. Source Ordered Content is an excellent way to present your most important content first for indexing.

If Google is abusing your titles to that degree, my first assumption would be that the content at the destination is not sending a strong enough relevancy signal. When you have Google using external inbound anchor text and appending it to your title, then you have challenges. Yes, I agree, Google should leave well enough alone. But, they don't. This is mostly to the searcher's advantage, but in this case it appears to lower your CTR.

Let's discuss CTR, Click Through Rate. I would imagine that many folks will click on a non descriptive title and/or description just to see what lies at the destination therefore improving CTR. But, I would also expect a higher bounce rate from those same folks hitting their back button as it wasn't what they expected.

Google's algo takes the site's weaknesses and tries to assist the searcher in identifying the destination. Maybe they noticed that a higher CTR also led to a higher Bounce Rate? So, to counter that, they include more information about the destination based on what they know. You would think that would help in most instances?

You have a lot of control over the outcome here. Either you take that control or Google will. Or, a sneaky competitor just might do it and anchor-jack you. ;)

realmaverick




msg:4270733
 8:53 pm on Feb 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

I've checked my top 50 links and not one of them link to me with this anchor text. Not one.

My title was descriptive and matched my websites content perfectly. Yes, perfectly. I don't even believe Larry freaking page coulda picked a better one. Though evidently their algo seems to think it can.

My meta descriptions are actually blank. Which is a method I employed, based on the fact that it resulted in higher CTR. Google would find the most relevant text on the page vs what I believe people will search for.

As I say, none of the title, h tags, content, internal links, external links, none of them have this particular phrase.

It's easy enough to assume that it's down to an issue with our pages content or something we've overlooked.

The sites getting 30,000 visitors a day from Google, it's in the top of it's niche and I'm not new to SEO.

Anyway, say sera sera

caribguy




msg:4270742
 9:06 pm on Feb 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

P1R: I can see how your theory makes sense in TheMadScientist's case. However, in my situation, the title is unique and descriptive (and so is the META description).

The effect is the exact opposite: as fas as I have been able to observe, Goog only modified the title for a query that specifically included the site's brand name.

Incidentally, while we don't use the brand name in the title, it is always the first word in the description tag.

Now imagine that they would have picked up something other but equally inane as 'brand logo' - which they did before I changed the alt text... Maybe something derogatory that an anchor-jacking competitor has put in place?

Sidenote: it looks like the changes I made as a result from this thread, and now having 'brand name' as the only word in the title, had a positive effect on clickthrus so far...

TheMadScientist




msg:4270744
 9:12 pm on Feb 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

Brand name only has a positive effect on your click-thrus?
Maybe I'm not so stupid for wanting that as my title after all...

realmaverick




msg:4270758
 10:05 pm on Feb 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

I've just noticed, that for many of the terms I rank for, my page title is in tact. It's only a couple of the main searches, that Google has changed the title for.

realmaverick




msg:4270862
 3:25 am on Feb 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

"Brand name only has a positive effect on your click-thrus?
Maybe I'm not so stupid for wanting that as my title after all... "

Thats only if you're a nationally known brand.

TheMadScientist




msg:4270866
 3:35 am on Feb 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

Well the non-nationally known brand I'm referring to got more clicks before I got my GoogleTitle, so you might be right in most cases, but if I wasn't losing clicks out of the deal I probably wouldn't be complaining, or have even noticed...

MichaelEdits




msg:4271006
 1:16 pm on Feb 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

Google does whatever they want and you just have to take it.

caribguy




msg:4271114
 4:34 pm on Feb 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

Brand name only has a positive effect on your click-thrus?
When the searcher types your brand as the keyword, yes.
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