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Gaming Google with <title> and H1 ?
BeeDeeDubbleU




msg:4610295
 11:30 am on Sep 17, 2013 (gmt 0)

Mods Note:
Messages below were split from the What statements/advice from Google do you think are false? [webmasterworld.com] thread as they developed as discussion on their own.

The quote below is from bluntforce message #4610229 in the above thread.



To be perfectly honest, if a person knows what a title and an H1 are, there is gaming going on, it's all a matter of degree.
Using appropriate titles and H1s can hardly be gaming the system if people are just following the advice given by Google.

Google:
Make sure that your <title> elements and ALT attributes are descriptive and accurate.

<h1>Brandon's Baseball Cards</h1>
(1) On a page containing a news story, we might put the name of our site into an <h1> tag and the topic of the story into an <h2> tag.

[edited by: aakk9999 at 9:28 am (utc) on Sep 18, 2013]

 

diberry




msg:4610350
 5:15 pm on Sep 17, 2013 (gmt 0)

Using appropriate titles and H1s can hardly be gaming the system if people are just following the advice given by Google.


But gaming IS a subjective measure. Any practice that improves rankings COULD be viewed as gaming, and we don't really know how Google sees it - especially on a case by case basis.

More to the point, though, I think the assumption that everything the algo does is 100% intentional on Google's part is outdated. There are a lot of weird things happening in the SERPs anymore that don't seem to fit with any possible profit motive on Google's part. I think the algo's just way more complicated than it used to be, so sometimes all those factors collide and you get unintended effects.

EditorialGuy




msg:4610364
 6:52 pm on Sep 17, 2013 (gmt 0)

To be perfectly honest, if a person knows what a title and an H1 are, there is gaming going on, it's all a matter of degree.


Titles and H1 tags existed long before Google came along. They're basic components of HTML.

You could just as easily argue that schema markup, pagination tags, and Google authorship markup are "gaming the system." Yet all three have Google's blessing and are actively encouraged by Google.

Tools are meant to be used, not abused, and Google has never preached that ignorance is preferable to knowledge.

bluntforce




msg:4610386
 9:05 pm on Sep 17, 2013 (gmt 0)

I hardly think I'm the only person who formulates titles while considering SEO benefit and user click through rates.
The point was that a person who "knows what a title and an H1 are" will often be aware of SEO and click through while it doesn't have much significance to the site user.

There's guidance, but individuals have to make the decision as to how closely they want to follow that guidance. Which is the thread topic.

EditorialGuy




msg:4610389
 9:28 pm on Sep 17, 2013 (gmt 0)

The point was that a person who "knows what a title and an H1 are" will often be aware of SEO and click through while it doesn't have much significance to the site user.


Sure, but that doesn't mean that using a descriptive title or H1 headline is "gaming." It's simply good publishing practice--just as it was in the pre-Google days.

Dymero




msg:4610392
 9:51 pm on Sep 17, 2013 (gmt 0)

It's simply good publishing practice--just as it was in the pre-Google days.


I agree, but it also shouldn't be all about the keywords. Certainly they're a component, but if the title doesn't cause someone to click to the site, the job isn't done. I think making descriptive titles is just as important as selecting proper keywords, and the two are related.

EditorialGuy




msg:4610411
 11:16 pm on Sep 17, 2013 (gmt 0)

I think making descriptive titles is just as important as selecting proper keywords, and the two are related.


Yes, and meta="description" copy should be written for human beings, too, because it plays an important role in encouraging clickthroughs.

In a nutshell: Think like an editor (not just like an SEO).

diberry




msg:4610691
 4:36 pm on Sep 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

Yes, and meta="description" copy should be written for human beings, too, because it plays an important role in encouraging clickthroughs.


I've been adding meta description tags to three websites in the past few months, and continue to add them to new pages as I develop them. I've run into an interesting quandary. One two sites, I have many options for writing them for human visitors, as these pages are very easy to find in Google.

But on the third site's niche, Google has never been very good at parsing what the pages mean and what the searcher is trying to find. So everyone in that niche - and I mean the searchers as well as the webmasters - has learned a certain lexicon. The searchers know they must search long tail phrases along the lines of: "brand widget year model [review/photos/instructions]" (not a real example) because Google hasn't got a clue if a search for "brand widget" is looking for a place to buy it, a review of it, a picture of it or how to use it. The webmasters then have to title their pages that same way, or else they don't rank and get mismatched search traffic which is no good for us, Google or visitors. The meta descriptions are either left out entirely or also follow that same distinctive pattern.

So this niche is a whole little ecosystem that's adapted to Google's algo, and the adaptation itself certainly COULD look like gaming... but it's really done for the visitors, because otherwise they're never find what they want through Google. It'll be really interesting to see how this develops over time. So far Google doesn't seem to be penalizing anybody.

But as searchers get more savvy about refining their phrases, there really will be a fuzzy line between "writing pages in a way that overcomes the algo's inability to read searchers' minds" and "writing pages to game the algo." Maybe as long as a lot of searchers and sites are using the same longtail phrases, Google assumes it's not gaming.

jimbeetle




msg:4610777
 10:49 pm on Sep 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

What bothers me *as a user* are the times, and there are many, when the title element -- used in the browser tab -- doesn't agree with the visible head. Very confusing.

I'd go with serving the user.

BeeDeeDubbleU




msg:4610873
 7:43 am on Sep 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

But as searchers get more savvy about refining their phrases, there really will be a fuzzy line between "writing pages in a way that overcomes the algo's inability to read searchers' minds" and "writing pages to game the algo."

I know what you mean diberry but can we assume that searchers will get more savvy? I remember back to about 15 years ago when we had to learn to use search properly and we did. If we did not know how to use it then we did not find what we were looking for. We used to use lots of search operators to fine tune our searches. It took a little bit of thought but the results were good and if the information we were seeking was in there we could almost always find it.

Google then came on the scene and made it their aim to take the thought out of it by using all sorts of personal data that they had harvested about the specific user. Perhaps at first their intentions were good but they have now moved search well away from what it should be and SERPs are now totally monetised. IMO Internet search should have remained a skill to be learned, I mean it is not that difficult, but rather than helping people to do this Google has driven it to a situation where they try to do it for them because it gives them control over the bottom line.

piatkow




msg:4610886
 8:31 am on Sep 19, 2013 (gmt 0)


What bothers me *as a user* are the times, and there are many, when the title element -- used in the browser tab -- doesn't agree with the visible head. Very confusing.

Its easy to forget to update the title each time when creating a batch of pages. I was doing a batch a couple of days ago and realised that the title that I was editing was the one from several pages back.

lucy24




msg:4610890
 8:54 am on Sep 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

What bothers me *as a user* are the times, and there are many, when the title element -- used in the browser tab -- doesn't agree with the visible head.

###. Do most humans expect them to be identical? I like to keep the title very, very short-- something that will fit within a browser tab even when it's down to <20 characters. ("Gaming Google with ..." is what I see right now ;)) The top header might be longer: more room to spread out, sometimes even a second line. Is this liable to confuse visitors?

BeeDeeDubbleU




msg:4610895
 9:28 am on Sep 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

I doubt that many users actually notice the title at the top of the browser window. They will obviously notice it in the SERPs but Google writes its own title there if it doesn't like yours.

bsand715




msg:4610939
 1:55 pm on Sep 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

I think the algo's just way more complicated than it used to be, so sometimes all those factors collide and you get unintended effects.

In other words they have wrecked the SERPS

Some Engineers are so intrigued by the way Star Trek characters simply talked to a computer to find out about almost anything and to become the first to succeed, they have turned search into fiction. They need to slow down and back up.

IMO Google has became so obsessed about people gaming them and
    and in guessing with their knowledge graph
they have changed to the point that now the returns show 3 types of sites.

One: Sites who are smart enough to continue gaming them.

Two: Sites that have nothing for google to rank them by so they must not be SEOed or spamming so lets put them at number one. (Thin no content and new sites.)

Three: Sites so totally out of context its laughable. e.g Returning baseball player when looking for machinery, even the images search.

Speaking as a user:
Myself and my team actively use search engines on a daily basic searching for hundreds of products and services. We have become so frustrated at the returns we want something to use beside the internet. In our opinion the results are worse than they have been in the ten years of our business.
We see such totaly unrelated returns in our searches lately its laughable. And this includes images.

I am so tired of seeing About, wikipedia, alibaba, useless u-tubes, facebook, other social sites, e-bay and other directory type sites along with unrelated ads that I want to scream. The really useful sites are so hidden by crap its time consuming to find them.

Couple years ago when the serps started going to h--l we were able to use quotations to get better results, thats not even working now.

If anyone one knows of a search engine (or other good business search sites please let us know)

Honestly Bing and Google have become so afraid of good seo they are blowing it.

Even though they preach build for the user with good content. The results they return seem to have forgotten about the user.

Maybe WWW needs a forum for the user experience.

BeeDeeDubbleU




msg:4610946
 2:45 pm on Sep 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

There is a lot of truth in this bsand715. Google SERPs seem to be getting continually worse yet they are still dictating all the terms. The page that was once so clean is now littered with ads most of which we are not interested in.

If you want a good, clean search experience try duckduckgo.com. This returns SERPs they way they used to be. ;)

jimbeetle




msg:4610963
 3:16 pm on Sep 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

I doubt that many users actually notice the title at the top of the browser window.

Well, this user does. Am I the only one?

mrengine




msg:4610968
 3:41 pm on Sep 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

In other words they have wrecked the SERPS

The serps are not wrecked at all. Google is becoming an all paid search engine. As webmasters are weaned from free Google traffic, they will explore many theories as to why they no longer get much traffic from Google. For many they will get caught up on recovering from panda, penguin or some other algo update when even a full recovery in the future would produce little traffic. People should accept the fact that the gravy train is over.

Anyone that thinks using a title and h1 tag is gaming the system is all wrong. Most wordpress templates, even the poorly coded ones, make use of these features. This is the first time I have heard anyone even propose such an idea.

diberry




msg:4610974
 3:49 pm on Sep 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

BeeDeeDubbleU, I think we can expect users to be as savvy as they need to be to get what they want. My non-techy friends all add "tail" to their searches when they don't get what they want.

bsand715, agreed. Another problem is that the web used to be almost pure information searched by geeks. Now it's a little of everything being searched by all sorts of people. "Door knobs" could mean the searcher wants the history of door knobs, how they work, where to buy some, or beautiful pictures of them... or it could have just recently become the name of a band, business, TV show...

I really think at some point the engines are going to have to abandon the dream of reading our minds and move toward more user instruction. Like, you put in door knobs, and it actually asks you, "Do you want to buy door knobs, see images of door knobs..." It's moving a bit in that direction with the tabs at the top, though I'm not sure many non-geeks ever notice those. And Google's "More" tab filters (flights, videos, recipes, etc.) don't work for me overall. The discussion one helps me narrow down when I want to read real people talking about their experience rather than Wikipedia's fact-checking on it, but the others filter out a lot of stuff that I personally would have preferred to include.

Instead of putting those filters at the top, they should be part of the search experience - something you have to mark before hitting "enter." And yes, I know searchers might be annoyed, but they're already being annoyed at putting in a term and getting all sorts of stuff they weren't looking for, that they could have found without Google.

EditorialGuy




msg:4610993
 4:27 pm on Sep 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

Instead of putting those filters at the top, they should be part of the search experience - something you have to mark before hitting "enter."


Sounds good to me. (But then, I always liked Yahoo's slider control that let users decide whether search results should be weighted toward commmercial or informational.)

Mind you, I'm not sure that filters for search results have much to do with the topic of this thread. :-)

lucy24




msg:4611039
 7:22 pm on Sep 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

Instead of putting those filters at the top, they should be part of the search experience - something you have to mark before hitting "enter." And yes, I know searchers might be annoyed

Anything the user can select in a search engine comes with a non-selection default value: number of items per page, adult-content filtering, information vs. purchase ...

BeeDeeDubbleU




msg:4611044
 7:32 pm on Sep 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

Yes, that's fine but Google seems to have decided that we are generally incapable of setting our own search parameters in favour of it deciding what we should see (assuming of course that there is a possibility of them making some money from their decision).

But perhaps we are getting off topic. Maybe Google deciding what we should see in the results based on the knowledge that they have harvested about the searcher is another topic.

lucy24




msg:4611093
 10:40 pm on Sep 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

I only meant to say that if searches are subdivided into information vs. purchase, it doesn't mean the user has to declare a preference every single time. The search engine will set something as the default.

Which default it --hypothetically-- chooses is a whole nother issue.

This thread is itself a spinoff from a broader thread. Matter of fact it seems to be drifting back into the original subject :)

How much can a <title> matter if the search engine doesn't hesitate to make up a new one? Headings are different because that's page content; the search engine can't really change it.

Related and possibly more interesting query: How does the search engine benefit by making up a title which is different from what the page actually shows? The user who does look at the top of the browser window might think the page has been changed since the last crawl-- with, among other things, a whole new title-- and leave without even looking at the content. (I'm saying this as a user. You may not know the technicalia of crawling and indexing, but most humans* have got some nebulous idea that your search results are not based on pages as they exist right this instant.)


* Always excluding the ones who complain that StreetView doesn't show their store's new marquee, installed the day before yesterday.

EditorialGuy




msg:4611129
 1:13 am on Sep 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

Related and possibly more interesting query: How does the search engine benefit by making up a title which is different from what the page actually shows?


In theory, at least, the search engine could benefit by providing a better user experience in cases where page titles aren't helpful (e.g., when they're examples of out-of-control keyword stuffing). Whether that's workable in practice is a different matter altogether.

Dymero




msg:4611348
 3:48 pm on Sep 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

I doubt that many users actually notice the title at the top of the browser window.


I look at the title all the time. It helps me remember what tabs I have open so I can navigate around the browser.

BeeDeeDubbleU




msg:4611554
 8:58 am on Sep 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

With respect, I would not expect anyone subscribing to this forum to be unaware of the title bar.

lucy24




msg:4611559
 9:22 am on Sep 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

Heh. But anyone browsing with tabs-- a group larger than the readership of this forum-- has to have some idea that there's such a thing as a page title. Otherwise how would they know which tab to choose? Sure they may not know it's called a <title>, let alone that it's an html element. But they have to know there's "something up there". Or do they think the browser just makes something up?

Hm. When did That Browser start offering tabbed browsing? I know it was about ten years after everyone else. But by now, even the computer-illiterate-- meaning, the people who use the browser that came with their computer-- must know that tabs exist. And a tab is no use without a title.

It would be pretty nervy of a search engine to treat a page title as one of its ranking factors, and then turn right around and make up a different title when showing search results.

BeeDeeDubbleU




msg:4611560
 9:33 am on Sep 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

It would be pretty nervy of a search engine to treat a page title as one of its ranking factors, and then turn right around and make up a different title when showing search results.
Food for thought?
EditorialGuy




msg:4611590
 2:29 pm on Sep 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

It would be pretty nervy of a search engine to treat a page title as one of its ranking factors, and then turn right around and make up a different title when showing search results.


The process of discovery, indexing, and ranking and the user interface are two different things. It could make perfect sense to, say, translate a long, awkward title into plain English or to minimize duplicate page titles on a SERP by making changes (e.g., by appending site names to generic titles, as in "Fuzzy Widgets - Widget Warehouse" instead of "Fuzzy Widgets.").

When Google changes titles, it's simply doing what site owners and editors do when they link to a site with their own anchor text.

BeeDeeDubbleU




msg:4611965
 8:48 am on Sep 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

Yes, but if they do change titles it's because the algo has determined that there is something wrong with the title. That could perhaps have some significance.

aakk9999




msg:4611970
 10:11 am on Sep 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

Yes, but if they do change titles it's because the algo has determined that there is something wrong with the title.

Not necessarily. I would say instead that Google believes their title is a better fit for that query.

I have seen that the same page sometimes shows the original title and sometimes Google-rewritten title, and this depends on the query.

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