Google rewrites titles and meta descriptions when they think it makes sense. In theory, "makes sense" means they believe they have found a title that matches the user's search better.
Again in theory, matching the user's search better increases the click through and increases traffic to your site. Since we now live in an era when a preponderance of referral data is withheld, you have no idea of which searches are sending traffic to which pages. You also don't know whether Google is rewriting the titles for just some subset of users or for everyone (as far as I've seen, it's everyone doing the same search, but that could be wrong).
If you put all that together, you have no idea whether or not Google's title rewriting is helping you or hurting you (unless someone has cracked this, but I don't believe anyone has).
This is normal. It only means that your titles are probably not in the right way that people find interesting. Google picks up info from DMOZ listings as well sometimes. Why? Because the current page title is not "relevant".
I'd suggest changing the page titles to a more "appealing" format. BTW, I think it does not affect your traffic in any significant way.
|It only means that your titles are probably not in the right way that people find interesting. |
In particular, it means their title rewrite algorithm finds that the titles not optimal for a particular keyword. You often see rewriting on a query for site:example.com. What is a person making that search looking for? That's the theoretical question the algo is asking - and rewriting would not be for the site owner but for someone in the general public.
|I think it does not affect your traffic in any significant way. |
For the site:example.com query, I agree because it is not a common query for the general public. However, if the algorithm starts rewriting the title for a high volume query, it can sometimes have a big effect on click-through. When they get it right, it helps.
In a CMS, many of our pages have "Page Title - Site Name" titles, over half do not, they are simply "Page Title". Many search phrases that return results for those pages without hyphenated titles will have the hyphenated title added by Google because it's in the user's search query.
EX: Page title is "City Widgets" and site name is "Widgets Of The United States". If the user searches for "US city widgets" the title in the SERPs for that page may be "City Widgets - Widgets Of The United States" but when you visit the page you can see in the browser title bar/tab it's just "City Widgets" and looking at the source code will confirm that we only intended "City Widgets" to be the title.
I've never seen titles rewritten to something that doesn't exist in the site though, like "City Widgets - Widgets in Washington" when there is no page with "Washington" in the title.
|I'd suggest changing the page titles to a more "appealing" format. |
I definitely wouldn't change any of mine, I'm the expert in my field and I know what makes sense to the professionals seeking my widgets as they have done for 180+ years, not Google's half-baked attempt at being better.
They make such a horlicks at times I'm amazed anything is found.
not here either. I feel like the pages are ranking with what we gave them, Google can manipulate at game time if they want and we're ok with that. I think that making a presumption that what Google is showing users should be used instead would be a mistake.
|I definitely wouldn't change any of mine |
IF the real page title is an accurate reflection of the page's contents
THEN any change in title will result in a less accurate reflection of the page's contents
AND people making a search selection based on a changed title do so because they think they're going to a different page than the one they're really going on
AND they will promptly spot the error and bounce back to the search page.
Whom does this benefit?
There is one thing we do not know.
We see these, to us checking referral logs, "crazy" changes that Google makes but is this after Google already "knows" this is the best answer but "prefers" to display it differently?
For a widget trade it's stupid, it's like they assume whisky, vodka, gin, rum, brandy and bourbon all to be the same thing...honestly!
BTW I'm using this an example!
One should not expect to see in Google results for a company using in their titlebar: "My Best Whisky From My Distillery In My Back Garden" changed to "My Best Whisky - Gin, Rum, Brandy, Vodka" ... That is totally frikking stupid and needs to be sorted.
Apologises to anyone trying to sell their best whisky however I'm sure you know from where I'm coming.
And just so you know, yes, Google does this to many of my widget titlebar descriptions YET NEVER changes the titlebar descriptions of SCRAPERS but still promotes them to #1 !?!?!?
Now they wonder why so many white hats are considering the dark side?
Really unacceptable. One more time we are Google victims !
I believe I have seen two types of changes
- meta title is rewritten to use H1 if the search is closer to the H1
- exact synonym replacement, probably only if the synonym is on the page (couch - > sofa)
Beyond that I'm not sure what sort of changes they do or do not make.
I've also seen the domain name added, the title truncated, and a few others.
Some sites use titles that are auto-generated. If the page is a good match to the search query, then editing those robotic titles can help the user and the website to meet up.
G rewrites most of our titles and uses the URL as title!
But this I noticed only if I search for the exact title, if I do a “keyword search” the titles are the original ones!
Some URL titles also appear when I search for our domain (list all example.com sites)
I never saw the URL titles in the target keyword SERP´s tho..
[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 10:56 am (utc) on Feb 23, 2013]
[edit reason] changed example domain to example.com, it can never be owned [/edit]
|I've also seen the domain name added, the title truncated, and a few others. |
On one of sites that uses branding at the end of the title as " - WidgetsofWidgetland.com" we saw Google rewriting this as "Widgets of Widgetland" for ALL pages, i.e. dropping ".com" and splitting words in domain name.