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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.

 

TheMadScientist




msg:4268854
 6:36 am on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

Just to add to this a bit...

I wondered why the clicks to this site dropped the other day and thought it was the rankings, but it wasn't ... They changed my title in the SERPs for me and now it blends right in with the rest of the titles on the page. It had a distinctive look and got clicks before, now it doesn't.

Thanks G you're the best!
Jack*sses that is. Leave My Bleeping Title ALONE!, Please.

indyank




msg:4268860
 6:47 am on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

You know what...check out your competition on whether they are doing anyything to affect you...these days competitors can do anything..they go to press, forums, etc. etc covering their faces.

Now, check the anchor text of links pointing to your site.Google is using them as well to change titles for the page and this can be manipulated by competition by slapping crappy links with crappy anchor text...It looks like Google is all about links for everything these days...

the other thing you need to tell me is how do your search for the site? Is it a keyword domain?

[edited by: indyank at 7:01 am (utc) on Feb 18, 2011]

TheMadScientist




msg:4268865
 7:00 am on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

Generic searches 2 to 3 keywords...

It's not coming from the links, it's coming from a sentence on the page.

I was actually really surprised they picked the one they did, because it's not even the H1, but I know exactly where on the page it came from.

indyank




msg:4268866
 7:03 am on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

Was it h2 or h3? From where did it come from?

A few days back, I received a few complaints that h3 was being used.I haven't investigated them yet.

It would help if you could tell me from where on the page did google pick it up?

TheMadScientist




msg:4268869
 7:07 am on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

It came from a paragraph I'm doing a css image swap with...
I have the text in a <p> that doesn't display.

It's the 2nd <p> from the <body> in the source code...
There are 2 short ones above the H1.

indyank




msg:4268874
 7:20 am on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

Two short Ps above the h1! that is interesting. I thought they were testing with titles by by picking up random h tags like h2 or h3 but from a paragraph above h1 is something new!

Note sure what google is trying to do.The example i saw had an h3 tag with a keyword in it.But the h3 title wasn't grammatically correct.

Do they still retain the keywords in the title?

TheMadScientist




msg:4268877
 7:35 am on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

The <p> they chose was:
Brand Key Phrase Here

The title of the page is only Brand.

The Key Phrase Here makes the title look like all the rest on the results page. No good for attracting attention. The brand name is distinctive and it's an abbreviation of the Key Phrase, so there's no need for them to change it.

Any PERSON would get it as soon as they saw it ... In fact more than one person I've told about what the site offers has asked what it's called and said, 'Oh, that makes sense...', as soon as I tell them. I really wish Googlers would get over the 'but it's got to be automated' and 'because we can' garbage, especially when it comes to something like branding a site / product.

The title of the home page on a site is important for Branding, including on their results page, but they don't seem to get that part of it ... It should be if someone can't get their home page title right, then that's their problem, but Google seems set on making it the problem of those of us who can get it right by 'thinking' for those who can't do it.

I wish they would quit doing so much of the 'because we can' and 'thinking for people' stuff and just go back to being Google ... You remember the place you went to find information on the web and you could call someone and say 'just search for blah blah' and click on result number 3.

What happened to Google? They tried to do too much of everything and tried to think for everyone, but forgot to do what they used to be good at ... Simple, easy to use, consistent search results.

[edited by: TheMadScientist at 7:46 am (utc) on Feb 18, 2011]

indyank




msg:4268878
 7:36 am on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

I will have to add that this happened only when they searched their domain name. This result had its title altered with h3 tag followed by "- domainname".

But on searching for the page's keyword, it had the right title.

[edited by: indyank at 7:45 am (utc) on Feb 18, 2011]

TheMadScientist




msg:4268880
 7:43 am on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

Really, they don't want people to keyword stuff and limit the length of title they'll show, so what do they do to mine? Put extra keywords in it and make it longer ... Genius! lol

ADDED: The fact the page is shown in the results should be enough of an indication to visitors the page contains the information they searched for. There is no reason to change the title, especially when it's 'BrandName' ... If they really feel the need to F*** with the description, then, alright, but why do they need to change the title at all?

If I search for 'green widgets' and a the home page for JCWidget Co shows up with the title JCWidget Co I know JCWidget Co probably has the product I'm looking for, even without the without the keywords in the title ... IMO Most people (everyone?) can figure that out, which means they're doing it because they can, not because they need to.

ADDED x 2: If they would quit cluttering up their own SERPs this way, maybe the day would come when the Title in the results could be SiteName or BrandName instead of 'keyword string we think you need to see to figure out the page we're showing you has what you searched for on it'.

Think about it for a minute...
How clean would the results page look and feel?

What would it look like if the title was 'SiteName' or 'BrandName' only, regardless of page in the results, with a description below, and a link to see more results (or site link style links to other results)...

They could fit 10 different sites in the top 10 results and not have to indent or anything ... It would be clean, simple and uncluttered.

indyank




msg:4268889
 8:37 am on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

I know you are getting made with this but again, are you sure your links to that homepage (both internal and external links) don't have that title (what google shows now) as anchor text?

TheMadScientist




msg:4268890
 8:39 am on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

Yes, I'm sure.

And even if it's in a link I don't know about, there's still NO NEED to change the title of the page in the SERPs. IDGAF where they got it. They don't need to change it.

indyank




msg:4268898
 8:51 am on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

Ok...If you use GWT, go there and you could find most links to this domain.If there aren't many links, it wouldn't be difficult to manually find what anchor text those links use.

Yes, I do agree with you that they don't have to change the title based on links.

This title alteration stuff was started way back in 2010 and google still continues to tweak it...

TheMadScientist




msg:4268910
 8:59 am on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

Yeah, I've read about it before, and if no one says anything there's no chance they're going to change anything, so I figured I'd see if there was some good reason I was missing for them doing it, and rant for a minute ... I have way better things to do with my time than try and figure out exactly where they got the text they're using, because knowing where it's coming from isn't going to change anything ... Even if it's in a link and I get it changed, they're just going to put something different there, for no reason other than, 'because they can'.

Robert Charlton




msg:4268911
 9:00 am on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

MadScientist... I understand your wanting your listing to stand out in the serps, and there's little I can say to comfort you. See this discussion from last Sept-Oct....

Google is testing altered page titles
http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4206724.htm [webmasterworld.com]

Since that time, changes have become much more common, and Google does seem committed to them.

The title of the page is only Brand.

This is precisely the kind of title that will trigger the addition, particularly when the added phrase is what caused Google to rank the page for the query... and when the phrase is contained in the query and on the page and in inbound links.

In part, I'm sure the additions help click-throughs. Google's not putting up results to have you think they're not relevant and search again. They want you to click, so they want searchers to understand what's beyond an otherwise anonymous title. If the title is descriptive enough, Google won't add extra vocabulary to it.

With the ODP/Yahoo changes, btw, the situation was just the opposite. The engines were removing our nice descriptive vocabulary from titles and just returning plain vanilla company names. I'd scream like crazy if they did that again... and in fact I give myself partial credit for wearing Tim Mayer down enough to give us our full titles rather than our Yahoo Directory titles in Yahoo search. We were getting disadvantaged by having Yahoo Directory listings. I think overall, and I know you disagree, that these Google additions are advantageous.

From what I've seen, it doesn't matter with regard to the Google changes whether the onpage text is in hx headings or not. Also, I haven't yet seen Google add an irrelevant phrase. You may not like it, but at least it's relevant.

indyank




msg:4268945
 10:29 am on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

From what I've seen, it doesn't matter with regard to the Google changes whether the onpage text is in hx headings or not.


What you have explained is what it was until now.The current tweaks however, are impacting elsewhere too, but I am still not able to see what they are trying to achieve with this.This could be a temporary one and they are in the middle of changing something or it could even be a bug.

This is the example.

I search for a domain name (without the tld).I get the home page and a few other pages from that domain listed below it.One of the pages gets assigned a (h3 tag + "- domain name") as title to it! This h3 tag has one keyword.

However, this page usually appears in the SERPS for other keywords too! When I do the search with those, I see the SERPS listing the page with the proper title.

So, it doesn't affect traffic, but it is strange that google chooses to use the h3 tag as the title for the page, in the SERP listing for a domain name search!

TheMadScientist




msg:4268975
 11:36 am on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

Robert I get what you're saying, but...

If you don't want 'brand only' in your title and you don't make your title 'brand only', then when Google leaves it alone you have the title you want.

If I want 'brand only' as my title and I make my title 'brand only' then when Google leaves it alone I have the title I want.

If the 'BrandName' wasn't an easy abbreviation for the keywords, then I wouldn't want 'BrandName' only either, but it happens my 'BrandName' is an abbreviation for the Keywords ANYONE would understand when they saw the name and what it corresponds to. In my 9 or so years online this is the ONLY site I've done this way and I did it for a reason.

PEOPLE GET THE TITLE!
ALGOs DON'T.

With the ODP/Yahoo changes, btw, the situation was just the opposite. The engines were removing our nice descriptive vocabulary from titles and just returning plain vanilla company names. I'd scream like crazy if they did that again... and in fact I give myself partial credit for wearing Tim Mayer down enough to give us our full titles rather than our Yahoo Directory titles in Yahoo search. We were getting disadvantaged by having Yahoo Directory listings.

We're saying exactly the same thing ... Leave the title ALONE!

I don't even care if they want to change it on the inner pages... But they want to jump people to the content on my site, they want to change the description, they want to do 10,000 different things, they could throw us a bone and just leave the title of the home page alone.

When I put BrandName(TM) as the title of the page, it all by itself, should be a hint...
This is a brand and if it fits the search, then let me develop it.

TheMadScientist




msg:4268981
 12:04 pm on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

I think part of what gets me is when you read the Buzz TOS they say you can't create your own button, meaning even if you don't like theirs or it doesn't fit with what your site looks like or how you want it to look or more people might click if it looked different that's too bad ... You've got to use their button to not be in violation of their TOS, but they think it's totally cool for them to replace BrandName(TM) for the title of my page, because it fits their purposes...

I guess it should be expected from a company with a motto of 'don't be evil' though ... If they didn't have that inclination, why would they need to remind themselves all the time?

vivalasvegas




msg:4268985
 12:31 pm on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

This happened to me several months back and it was because of internal anchor text. I removed the text they were adding from these internal links and now my titles are back to normal.

tedster




msg:4269045
 2:52 pm on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

I guess it should be expected from a company with a motto of 'don't be evil' though ... If they didn't have that inclination, why would they need to remind themselves all the time?

We've all got the inclination - even the saints of human race. It's the inevitable shadow side of everyone.

But as immense power accrues in one place, that makes the inevitable shadow a real problem for others. Economist Milton Friedman once said "Concentrated power is not rendered harmless by the good intentions of those who create it."

----

The title and description editing algorithm has definitely been cranked up into high gear these days. I was just with a client yesterday and we ran into examples several times during our conference session. The title edits are definitely query dependent, rather than having one permanent edit in place for every search phrase. And in the case of my client, the edits were improvements that saved them from their own mistakes. As intended, the rewriting was helping their traffic.

But any machine algo is going to make mistakes some percentage of the time - and this rewrite definitely does. I'm assuming this Rewriter is a complex machine learning algorithm that watches its own results and attempts to improve itself automatically.

We can hope that the machine learning part will notice that despite the original intention, clicks actually go down in some cases. Other than that, we really don't have any option - our rankings are like fruit flies in Google's immense laboratory. And so far, they have given us no way to participate in this part of experiment.

GlobalMax




msg:4269056
 3:32 pm on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

And the winner of the best WebmasterWorld quote of recent memory is...

@tedster:
our rankings are like fruit flies in Google's immense laboratory

SevenCubed




msg:4269063
 3:44 pm on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

Well GlobalMax, I think there are two right in the same posting because here's my vote:
We've all got the inclination - even the saints of human race. It's the inevitable shadow side of everyone.

That is so very, very true. Life is a war and each day is a battle. We cannot win the (inner) war without winning the little battles. At the end of a day I ask myself, did I win the battle today -- if not I try harder tomorrow.

freejung




msg:4269074
 4:22 pm on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

Sometimes Google tries really strange stuff with this. For example, the other day I noticed a title that Google had changed by adding the title of my homepage to the title of a subpage. Apparently the subpage title wasn't long enough in G's opinion.

What was really weird about it is that it wasn't the current title of the homepage, it was the title that the homepage used to have months ago.

To me that suggests that Google is storing a database field somewhere for "name of site" or something similar, and it periodically refreshes that field with the title of the homepage, but not nearly as frequently as it crawls and indexes the actual page.

So pick your homepage titles carefully. As if you weren't doing that already...

netmeg




msg:4269163
 7:01 pm on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

I was complaining about this a few months ago in some thread I'm too lazy to go find. The one I was ticked actually eventually recovered its proper name, but then a bunch more went rogue. Not happy about it, but I don't see there's much I can do.

Sgt_Kickaxe




msg:4269175
 7:31 pm on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

I had not one but three internal pages get a swap recently. I noticed it immediately in the form of a traffic freefall without rankings loss for those pages.

~ They were very important to the site
~ They had distinctive and very accurate titles to begin with but got switched for "bland" versions.
~ On page text was used
~ I changed the on page text slightly and the titles reverted to original within 10 days, traffic returned.

My conclusion is that just being on page one is not enough, you've got to have the most clickable title too. With Google it almost needs to be an exact match title for the searched terms since Google bolds exact matches of keywords... making them more clickable.

I choose titles that people search for, Google is implementing titles that aren't as searched for, this is a problem. I agree that it adds variance to the results but if I'm already ranked and getting traffic I'm not inclined to allow this.

In my case I was 3/3 at losing traffic, I suppose it's possible to have traffic increase, I just haven't seen that yet.

Joshmc




msg:4269187
 7:51 pm on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

I am having a weird thing as well where google is changing the title in serps to what the anchor text is from a majority of the links coming to that page. The keywords they are using are on the page as well, but there they are not in any of the H tags and yet are still showing up as the title tag on serps.

mromero




msg:4269197
 8:03 pm on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

TheMadScientist - I wonder if there may be a correlation with Face Book?

Whenever we put up a post on our wall with a link FB would grab the First H1 and the first paragraph of the page.

Now yesterday we did the same thing we always do and noticed FB now grabbed the Description instead of the first paragraph of the page. The Headline we wrote for FB stayed as we wrote it.

We did not really mind as on taking a second look the Description on this page is very well written and distills the essence of what the article is about - better than the first paragraph would have done.

These guys are twiddling their dials so much I am getting dizzy...

TheMadScientist




msg:4269202
 8:16 pm on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

mromero I think they're completely separate on this one.

I had someone test the share button on the site (I don't have it on FB yet) and FB changed the title too, but they changed it to a previous version (I'm assuming they had cached) not the Google version.

These guys are twiddling their dials so much I am getting dizzy...

Yeah, and unlike most of us who would make changes by hand so we know if the change makes sense they insist on doing everything algorithmically, so they really have no clue about what should / needs to be changed and what should be left alone.

It's almost like they have a creativity penalty...

Oh, you found a way to make a short, understandable title, or a really descriptive one people click on as Sgt_Kickaxe talks about? Well, we can't have that; you must conform and if you won't write a generic keyword title for your page that looks like everyone else's in the SERPs then we'll automatically do it for you...

I don't know why either of them feel the need to change the title and description of a page, personally.

Edit got too Ranty (lol): Actually, I don't mind G changing the description too much, because when you rank for a large number of queries you can't include all the words you rank for in the regular one, and I could even give 'em the titles on the inner pages of larger sites where everything that's on there won't fit in it, because I can see where this would help with the long-tail when a page ranks for 5 or 6 or 10 four word phrases, but the Home Page? Come on guys ... Keep Your Algorithms Off It! Please.

As far as FB goes, people aren't searching for anything when they view a profile so they really have no clue if the description provided matches what someone might be looking for or not, and personally, if I share something or tell someone about something, it should be fairly implicit I liked what I saw, so why mess with it? It could be with mine they had the older title cached and will show the newer one next time, but who knows?

netmeg




msg:4269217
 8:48 pm on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

The site where I'm seeing these issues is a B2B site with no FB presence.

tedster




msg:4269236
 9:22 pm on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

I don't mind G changing the description too much, because when you rank for a large number of queries you can't include all the words you rank for in the regular one

That's the key point in understanding why Google is doing this. But for some reason, the algo has now run amok and is doing damage instead of helping.

Maybe the rewrite algo's name is HAL2000

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