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Penalty for changing the title on too many pages?
Josuah




msg:4413505
 2:29 pm on Feb 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

I have a problem in one of my sites since I changed the title for around 20.000 pages. I did it once and not a big change, just deleting one keyword, but it seems to have triggered some kind of filtering: these pages are gone from Google index, even searching for their unique piece of text.

Some of them come back to index for a short period of time and then disappear again. I have tried to change back the title for 3-4 of these pages and it worked, but only for some of them.

Any experience with this kind of problem?

 

tedster




msg:4413663
 9:19 pm on Feb 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

There were a few reports last year about ranking problems on sites that did extensive title tag changes - especially if it was done more than one time. Your is the first I've seen in recent days however.

Many members here assumed that Google was doing this to obstruct reverse-engineering attempts. in other words, trying to make titles that find the Google sweet spot instead of writing titles for visitors. Still might be the case.

Frost_Angel




msg:4413756
 2:10 am on Feb 3, 2012 (gmt 0)

I'm not sure this is what happened to my site - but I had my site flipped from HTML to wordpress. The person I hired said he had it all under control - knew what he was doing. But after the flip, I start looking and they changed EVERY title and url. Carelessly. Granted - some changes had to happen and I knew that. Like no more .htm - it would just be /url/

After 10 months of waiting it out and making my site the best it's ever been - still no movement in the serps.

jsherloc




msg:4413780
 4:07 am on Feb 3, 2012 (gmt 0)

@tedster, would you advise webmasters to NOT update their title tags to reflect, for example, all of the relevant long tail phrases that Google's Analytics/WMT show you after launching a certain page and giving it a few months to receive relevant organic traffic?

I guess I just don't understand why Google encourages us to use all of these great analytic tools to improve our website's user experience, but could then directly punish us for using these same tools and the information given to us, all based upon guessing our "intent" when we make these changes? How does that even work...

For example, say you launch a page about "about red hair cats". Your title tag is "about red hair cats". You check your Google analytics/webmaster tools and see that specific page is getting the most organic traffic for "deaf red hair cats" and "red hair cats that are deaf", "red hair cat can't hear", "red hair cats hearing loss" etc.

You notice the search phrases: "deaf red hair cats" and "red hair cats that are deaf" are bringing in about 5 times as many visitors as any other longtail search terms, and then you see that your page is ranking somewhere on the second page of Google for both search phrases.

So you fire up the Google Adwords Keyword tool/search tool/etc just to get an idea of the type of the organic search volume you could expect for "deaf red hair cats". To your amazement "deaf red hair cats" gets over 10,000 [exact match] searches. All of your other long tail phrases seen within Google Analytics and WMT that are bringing in organic traffic where you are currently ranking, only typically show about 1,000 [exact match] search results or much less.

Should webmasters in a situation like this (on a larger scale like making hundreds to thousands of these types of "optimization" changes to title tags pages as OP's example)...should they start thinking about NOT doing this for fear of triggering some type of over-optimization penalty (that many folks report never report recovering from)?

IMO, using GA and WMT information in this type of way would be catering directly to your users, as Googlebot is telling us with their tools that our page is highly relevant for these types of search phrases. But maybe if that phrase you update your titles tags as passes a certain search volume theshold, then you are "over" doing it perhaps and no longer have the "relative" best content? Where is this imaginary line they keep drawing and ENCOURAGING us to jump over with all of the increased data through these tools and platforms they are providing webmasters? Yikes...I don't know what to think anymore really.

tedster




msg:4413803
 6:13 am on Feb 3, 2012 (gmt 0)

The issues people have been reporting come from frequent or widespread title changes. An occasional title tweak can make good sense as you say - especially if there is some modification of the content accompanying it.

The key is not to become a "robot" about any particular SEO technique - your toolbox should be very well equipped and not merely focused on title tags and anchor text. Those are very sensitive areas.

idolw




msg:4413807
 6:17 am on Feb 3, 2012 (gmt 0)

@Frost_Angel - did you make 301 redirects from old URLs to new URLs? If there is no 301 redirect, the Googlebot does not know the pages had changed their address. That means, all links to your old pages will not be re-directed to new pages. So new pages have no old links to them.
To check it, try to go to one of your old addresses - if you are not taken to new pages, there is no redirect.

Josuah




msg:4413822
 8:30 am on Feb 3, 2012 (gmt 0)

In our case the change of title was made just once, that's why I'm not sure if that's the reason of the filtering.

@Frost_Angel I'd check the redirects as idolw says and if the titles are back like they were.

Thanks for the answers.

enigma1




msg:4413831
 9:24 am on Feb 3, 2012 (gmt 0)

@josuah, when you say title which title did you change, the meta-title or a document <h1> title or both? Also how long ago did you make the changes?

@Frost_Angel, you don't change links and titles when pages rank well (did you also changed the content?). You keep exactly the same URLs and no 301s. And there is a number of factors introduced when you switch from physical pages into a dynamic cms. HTML structure, links navigation, speed performance, etc., they all need to be tuned.

Josuah




msg:4413945
 4:41 pm on Feb 3, 2012 (gmt 0)

@enigma1 both, meta-title and h1. I did it around july 2011, I didn't notice the filter until august-september.

enigma1




msg:4413950
 5:13 pm on Feb 3, 2012 (gmt 0)

Is it perhaps the title now is way too general? For example if previously was Blue Widgets and now it's just Widgets it will cause a problem. See if you can add relevant keywords to rectify the problem, use the meta-title for this.

azn romeo 4u




msg:4413964
 5:53 pm on Feb 3, 2012 (gmt 0)

I have just changed my title on the home page, and various other pages. Around 5000+ titles in all. I'll tell you guys how it goes. I mean big changes. Like 5+ words on some pages.

Also I usually change my titles every 2+ years to reflect anything new.

Google has picked up the changes I made to my homepage, but others not so much yet. So far traffic is definitely down compared to Friday a week ago.

Usually when I change it, I leave it at least for a month. Don't keep changing it every week base on your stats or you're gonna be in trouble base on what I noticed.

Also this... "keyword | keyword |" doesn't seem to work as well anymore in titles. Instead this does I noticed "keyword, keyword," For long-tail at least.

Frost_Angel




msg:4413981
 6:08 pm on Feb 3, 2012 (gmt 0)

Yes - all the redirects were in place before we flipped. We had a few glitches in that department - but they were fixed right away. The reason the urls HAD to change somewhat if because if you're going from HTML to wordpress you CAN'T make them exactly the same because for example:

http://www.example.com/whatever.html
becomes
http://www.example.com/whatever/

You lose the .html
But beyond that - the company I hired to move my site did a very SLOPPY job at keeping titles and urls as close as possible. And this was a company recommended at < a well regarded source >. I was warned to just do it myself and I wish I had. Hindsight.

My site has never recovered after the April 11th hit. I don't know if this url change thing is what did it, or the format change as a whole and Google saw my site as a new site and sandboxed it (for 10 months+) or it was a change to a new server 3 months prior....

I just don't know? I DO know my site is better than ever and I am hoping the next MEGA crawl or dance or whatever, that my site is cured from Pancer. LOL

[edited by: tedster at 6:35 pm (utc) on Feb 3, 2012]
[edit reason] switch to example.com - stop the autolink [/edit]

enigma1




msg:4414017
 7:39 pm on Feb 3, 2012 (gmt 0)

because if you're going from HTML to wordpress you CAN'T make them exactly the same because for example:

Says who? You customize the code and you CAN create the same URLs. And that goes for any CMS.

ken_b




msg:4414023
 7:47 pm on Feb 3, 2012 (gmt 0)

Penalty for changing the title on too many pages?

This is probably nit-picking, but "Penalty" may be the wrong word here.

It's more of a re-ranking based on the changes in the page titles.

.

Frost_Angel




msg:4414033
 8:15 pm on Feb 3, 2012 (gmt 0)

@enigma1

Says who? You customize the code and you CAN create the same URLs. And that goes for any CMS.


I just assumed it was like that. I don't profess to be a know it all.

smithaa02




msg:4414047
 9:00 pm on Feb 3, 2012 (gmt 0)

Frost...you can keep '.html' links in wordpress. Just install the custom permalinks plugin and you can have whatever filename you want for your wordpress pages.

sundaridevi




msg:4414048
 9:01 pm on Feb 3, 2012 (gmt 0)

Any experience with this kind of problem?


I did this a week ago for a CMS that had previously generated unsatisfactory titles. We're talking about 120 or so pages. I made them all shorter.

Google is being very slow about indexing them, I would say so far only about 20% seem to have been reindexed, but when the new title shows up in the SERPs the effect is 100% increased rankings. I did notice as well that among the ten or so I'm tracking, some completely disappeared for a few days. But then they came back.

I don't believe a title change alone could be harmful.

PayMePerClick




msg:4414053
 9:11 pm on Feb 3, 2012 (gmt 0)

IF this is true, it's such BS. If I'm trying to rank for the term "homes" and I have the most useful directory of homes for sale, I have every right to change my Title to rank above the pure garbage Google currently ranks up top, and without penalty. If I have a legitimate homes site or listing/directory that is constantly updated full of new home listings, I should have every right to make whatever changes and as many changes to WHATEVER parts of my site I want, in order to rank above the @#$% Google is currently ranking. Why in the world would a home insurance company, two definition sites, and a city-specific (not my city) blog about interior home design show up on the first SERP page for a search for "homes".


Also, I'm using "homes" as a generic term because "widgets" is pretty played out.

Frost_Angel




msg:4414056
 9:18 pm on Feb 3, 2012 (gmt 0)

Frost...you can keep '.html' links in wordpress. Just install the custom permalinks plugin and you can have whatever filename you want for your wordpress pages.


See... this is something you'd think the guy I paid like $11,000 to for the redesign and site move to know?! I'm just a mom at home with my little website trying to make a living and hiring EXPERTS.
Makes me sick now. It's been 10 months since the site was flipped. I doubt changing all the urls back to what they were on the HTML site would do any good now.
Heartbreaking. 11 years of work and great rankings lost at the hands of a dumba$$. I yie yie.
That's why going to forums like this scare the crap out of me. You "think" you're getting great advice and recommendations - but you really have to be careful.

Sgt_Kickaxe




msg:4414058
 9:19 pm on Feb 3, 2012 (gmt 0)

Sorry for the experience, Frost_Angel, always make small changes or use test pages to try something major and wait long enough to know how it affects your site. Wholesale changes, of any kind, are always a crap shoot because of Google's ultra-secrecy policy.

I have removed the site name from titles without problem, and moved it from the start to the end on other occasions without losing any traffic. I have been able to add words as well, the problem seems to happen when you remove a keyword that the page previously ranked for. It would seem that Google 'resets' the page as if brand new when keywords go missing.

Habtom




msg:4414110
 12:53 am on Feb 4, 2012 (gmt 0)

these pages are gone from Google index, even searching for their unique piece of text.


@Frost_Angel Check if your pages are not accidentally blocked by robots.txt or NOINDEX in meta. Seems odd it has been 10 months, and they are not indexed yet.

Slashus




msg:4414455
 12:21 pm on Feb 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

In response to Panda and trying to get some traffic back, I've changed hundreds of thousands of pages' meta title/description tags numerous times over the last few months - wildly. And I'm only seeing improvements.

trakkerguy




msg:4414464
 2:20 pm on Feb 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

@Frost_Angel - It is unfortunate that your expert doesn't seem to know the basics. Besides using a plugin, another option for retaining the .html is as simple as using this in settings/permalinks:

/%postname%.html

Planet13




msg:4414481
 3:55 pm on Feb 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

@ Frost_Angel:

Look at the contract you signed with the guy. It may be that you can sue him in small claims court.

There is probably a time limit on when you can sue, so I would do it quickly.

Hopefully, you won't have to sue him. Hopefully they will have got the knowledge that he needs to know how to do a proper job, and will be willing to re do it properly for free to avoid having his tucus hauled off to court...

Josuah




msg:4414695
 2:42 pm on Feb 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

@enigma1
Is it perhaps the title now is way too general? For example if previously was Blue Widgets and now it's just Widgets it will cause a problem. See if you can add relevant keywords to rectify the problem, use the meta-title for this.

The change was something like from "blue widgets for sale" to "blue widgets", so maybe you are right.

@Sgt_Kickaxe
the problem seems to happen when you remove a keyword that the page previously ranked for. It would seem that Google 'resets' the page as if brand new when keywords go missing

That's an interesting thought.

Thanks all for sharing your experience!

Marketing Guy




msg:4414701
 3:18 pm on Feb 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

My site has never recovered after the April 11th hit. I don't know if this url change thing is what did it, or the format change as a whole and Google saw my site as a new site and sandboxed it (for 10 months+) or it was a change to a new server 3 months prior....


@Frost_Angel - April 11th was the main rollout of the Panda update. Nothing to do with changing titles or URL structure - that was just coincidental timing. The issue is most likely your content.

netmeg




msg:4414715
 3:48 pm on Feb 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

I tend to agree it's not titles or URL structure. Last year I took three sites from one platform to another (which required changing the URL structure and putting a boatload of 301s in place) and all of them did extremely well.

triggerfinger




msg:4414753
 5:20 pm on Feb 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

@Sgt_Kickaxe
the problem seems to happen when you remove a keyword that the page previously ranked for. It would seem that Google 'resets' the page as if brand new when keywords go missing


That is an interesting thought. I have a story that might support that theory. Specifically, after ranking high first page for years, Panda 1.0 shot my google ranking to the 5th page. However, our Bing ranking stayed strong.

After changing the Title Tag of my home page (mind you, the homepage was not the landing page that was ranking for the term), no only did my Google rank drop further into oblivion, but my Bing ranking as well.

Just one keyword, but it seems to support the "reset" theory.

scooterdude




msg:4414780
 6:00 pm on Feb 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

In the past 12 mths, Every time I've changed title tag or URL structure , to improve a site, 100% of the time, I've been reward by Google with SERP obliteration

Having read many threads like this, tis obvious that its the general experience


However, tis also obvious that there are exceptions to these generous penalties, and these exceptions, fairly vocal are consistently the same, that is, till they are not

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