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Google Changes Page Title Even When It Exactly Matches the Search Term

   
2:18 pm on Oct 31, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



For some time I've been annoyed by Google's policy of sometimes showing an altered page title in their listing of the search results. I'm annoyed because their new title is nearly always illogical and inappropriate, and therefore less likely to be clicked.

But now the situation has gotten even worse, because they've started showing altered titles even when my chosen title exactly matches the search term!

For example, suppose my chosen page title is "Antique Widgets" and my home page title is "All Abut Widgets". When someone searches for "antique widgets" [without quotes], then the title that Google displays in the SERPs is:

Antique Widgets -- All About Widgets

In other words, Google appends a dash mark followed by the title of the home page. So even though my original title exactly natches the search terms, Google still changes it.

Google has recently started doing this for most of the pages on both of my two biggest sites. There is no doubt in my mind that this results in fewer clicks and less traffic.

When I created my websites, I carefully chose each page title to accurately reflect what the page is about. Google's policy of changing them is irresponsible and unjustly harmful to my sites.
3:51 pm on Oct 31, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member netmeg is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



They've been doing it on some of my sites for some time.
3:56 pm on Oct 31, 2011 (gmt 0)



I haven't yet seen them do this for any of my product pages but for ages now they have changed my home page titles across most of my B&M sites and ever since they started doing this my example.com went from #2 after Wikipedia to #500+, my example.asia and example.eu rank way in front in the 90s and there's an unused twitter page using my example in the 80s!

Whatever it is they're trying to do has failed miserably for me...again.
4:02 pm on Oct 31, 2011 (gmt 0)



I have seen the same behavior in one of my sites.
4:05 pm on Oct 31, 2011 (gmt 0)



aristotle wrote:
For example, suppose my chosen page title is "Antique Widgets" and my home page title is "All Abut Widgets". When someone searches for "antique widgets" [without quotes], then the title that Google displays in the SERPs is:

Antique Widgets -- All About Widgets

In other words, Google appends a dash mark followed by the title of the home page. So even though my original title exactly natches the search terms, Google still changes it.

Hmm... Your post subject make it sounds as if your issue is that when a user searches for "antique widgets", your page, titled "Antique Widgets", is shown in the results, but Google has changed the title to something other than "Antique Widgets".

But I think what you're actually trying to say is that Google is changing the title of the returned page to match the user's query even if you have a different page whose title exactly matches that query already. Is that correct?

--
Ryan
4:14 pm on Oct 31, 2011 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



I have that stuff going on too. What really irks me is the structure of what they show. Let's say the site name is Widget Lover and the search term is "green glowing widgets"

the actual page title is

Green Glowing Widgets - Types. Advantages. Why Use It?

They show

green glowing widgets - Widget Lover

Ack that ticks me off. I use all caps on words in my page titles not that crap. It looks horrendous in the SERPS and eliminates clicks in my opinion as some titles with questions get more action.
4:19 pm on Oct 31, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member g1smd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



Is your title tag punctuation HTML encoded, or plain?

Could they be barfing on the question mark in some way?

Are there any HTML validation errors at any point whatsoever before the opening
<body>
tag?
7:26 pm on Oct 31, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month




riange wrote:
But I think what you're actually trying to say is that Google is changing the title of the returned page to match the user's query even if you have a different page whose title exactly matches that query already. Is that correct?

No, that isn't correct. What I said is what I meant.


g1smd wrote:
Is your title tag punctuation HTML encoded, or plain?

Could they be barfing on the question mark in some way?

Are there any HTML validation errors at any point whatsoever before the opening <body> tag?


1. The title tags on all my pages are in standard form: <title>Page title in plain text</title>
2. As best I remember, none of my page titles contain question marks.
3. All of my pages pass W3C html and css validation with no errors.


-- When Google first started altering page titles in the SERPs, Matt Cutts (or someone at Google) said that it was being done to make the title more relevant to the search term and thereby increase CTR. But actually it usually does the opposite.

P.S. I just noticed that Bing does exactly the same thing (appending the dash mark and home page title) for most pages on my two biggest sites. That's really a strange coincidence. Hmm ...
7:43 pm on Oct 31, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



I've taken to creating longer titles, and this seems to be effective in stopping this. It isn't ideal but it's better than some of the dreadful titles that Google has been generating.
7:55 pm on Oct 31, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator buckworks is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



Something else to tweak is the anchor text of internal links pointing to the page. That seems to be one of the places Google is pulling the extra verbiage from.
8:44 pm on Oct 31, 2011 (gmt 0)



aristotle wrote:
No, that isn't correct. What I said is what I meant.

Ahh. I was misreading your example.

--
Ryan
 

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