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Changing Home Page Title Causes Ranking Loss

     

potentialgeek

9:57 am on Dec 6, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I did two experiments around the same time a week ago on two different unrelated and unconnected aged websites. Previous titles had been set once years ago and never changed, except, in one case, a single word, which had changed annually without apparent loss in ranking.

Site 1

Changed the home page title tag to a two-word phrase which matched the domain name (down from about eight words).

Result: Ranking for that phrase dropped from p. 2 to p. 8.

Site 2

Changed the home page title tag to a single word which matched the domain name (down from about eight words).

Result: Ranking for that phrase dropped from p. 1 to p. 8.

Conclusions

* Short-term losses are to be expected from changing titles.

* Google may see it as an attempt at optimization.

* Google may see too-short titles as a bad signal.

* Minor changes don't necessarily cause problems.

* Major changes could at least temporarily lower trust.

mememax

3:40 pm on Dec 6, 2011 (gmt 0)

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* Google may see it as an attempt at optimization.


I think this is one issue. Google finds a new title, so it "thinks": -hey something new has happened to this page, let's see what. Then when it enters the page it finds nothing new, so you've changed title to rank better. SERP manipulation attempt --> down in rankings. (at least is what I'll think)


* Short-term losses are to be expected from changing titles.


More than that: "short-term CHANGES are to be expected from PAGE ALTERATIONS".

You got a score, your result is balanced in its position, when you change something this will change something of your "rank". It maybe let you raise or fall but in the short period you mustn't judge as good/bad your changes.

Content_ed

7:32 pm on Dec 6, 2011 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



In both cases, you drastically reduced the length of the title, right? That might strike Google as focusing on a keyword/phrase, over-SEO penalty.

bwnbwn

10:27 pm on Dec 6, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member bwnbwn is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member



Example my address I use for my business is 777 Delmark drive, New country, SC. 29205 I think hmm lets just change it to 777 delmark so all the people looking for ya can now not find were the heck you are.
Removing most of a very important document is not a good idea as you have found out. This isn't an experiment it is self destruct experiment.

Rlilly

12:37 am on Dec 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



> Google may see it as an attempt at optimization

I have a hard believing that. Google promotes optimization. There is no reason why one cannot change the title if they think it describes the page better, and will create better click threw.

Forbin001

5:07 am on Dec 7, 2011 (gmt 0)



Recently I deoptimized the home page to emphasize the internal page. There was a risk that google would drop any relevancy of the home page if I wanted to switch it back but I did it anyways.

For a month my rankings did drop, and google was still emphasizing the home over the internal, so I reoptimized the home page and things went back the way they were before.

A risky move, but this is what happened when I did it. My 2 cents, cheers.

tangor

11:09 am on Dec 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tangor is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



Existing sites/titles with longevity getting new titles is sure to sandbox, if nothing else. Should be no surprise there'd be a red flag for a change to elder/evergreen sites.

John Wayne, Operation Pacific
changed to
Wayne Pacific

How would you rank that?

tabish

12:50 pm on Dec 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



* Google may see it as an attempt at optimization.


I do not agree with this. For example if i find one of my page's title is "cool widget" while actually that page contains lot more other info about that "widget" then if i decide to make the title like "Cool widget review & online guide" then it is being considered as "attempt of optimization"?

Sites that has keywords filled like anything are coming on top and if i change my old title to something sensible then i don't think Google will consider it as "black hat seo" and will penalize.. come on guys.. i have done that and gained good results.

CovertSEO

11:50 am on Dec 10, 2011 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



Sites that has keywords filled like anything are coming on top and if i change my old title to something sensible then i don't think Google will consider it as "black hat seo" and will penalize.. come on guys.. i have done that and gained good results.
I have done the same thing several times and been reward.
And yes, I did it to affect rankings.

Planet13

5:23 pm on Dec 10, 2011 (gmt 0)

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* Google may see it as an attempt at optimization.


I've had mixed results.

For MOST of the pages that I have changed, I looked at the keywords that were being used to find the page, then changed the titles to better incorporate those keywords. (I also changed the H1 tags and meta descriptions, for what it is worth).

Result: A modest increase in traffic to those pages.

However, I haven't checked the rankings, and to be honest, I have NO IDEA what titles google is serving up to its users. Could be my new titles, could be the old titles, could be something else entirely.

There were a FEW where it seemed to go the opposite way, and I quickly returned to the original titles, and within a week, traffic was back to normal.

potentialgeek

8:34 am on Jan 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Quick update:

One site has slowly climbed back from p. 8 to p. 6 and is now p. 4. The other dropped like a bomb after the initial hit to p. 8 but returned recently to p. 6. (No other changes to either site.) The more competitive keyword is having a more difficult return.

Planet13

3:47 pm on Jan 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member planet13 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



One site has slowly climbed back from p. 8 to p. 6 and is now p. 4.


Out of curiosity, does the "P" in the phrase "p. 8 to p. 6" stand for "Page" or does it stand for "Position"?

Play_Bach

5:33 pm on Jan 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

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I'm experimenting with this now. So far, home page still #1 for main keyword pair after changing the title with a better, longer description.

potentialgeek

4:37 pm on Jan 19, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Quick update:

The site that slowly climbed back from p. 8 to p. 6, then p. 4, is now p. 1 (#6).

The other that was moved to p. 8, then p. 6, is now p. 5.

(Once again no changes made to either site since last update.)

Recovery time for site 1 was over a month.

P.S. I suspect smaller changes to titles are less suspicious to Google but haven't done any testing to prove it yet.

cntt8x

3:55 am on Mar 5, 2012 (gmt 0)



I get this problem now, i changed title and keyword phrase from 3 to 8, so should i change title back to old version? How to that phrase rank high as originally?

Sgt_Kickaxe

5:56 am on Mar 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member sgt_kickaxe is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member



Two years ago I noticed my site had crept up to page 4 for a keyword that webmaster tools suggested my site ranked highly for despite not being part of the core subject. e.g. blue widget grease instead of blue widgets.

I added the word to the title in what I thought to be a clever way and promptly lost that page 4 ranking for the word(down 500 places) and lost a good chunk of the rankings I had for previous words(down 50).

I though "wow, that was bizarre, but no problem I'll change it back". That should have worked right? wrong, the site never regained the page 4 rank on the non-important keyword and the other pages have recovered a bit but are down about a page each.

Why? What happened? In my opinion the change prompted a re-evaluation and, perhaps, a human editor to come along and decide the site was definitely not about the extra keyword so a manual action ensured it would not rank for it.

THAT action has the potential effect of negating a lot of incoming anchor text which in turn also sinks your site a bit, perhaps even more than the human review intended.

Bottom line - can you improve your rankings with a title change? Only if the keyword was glaringly missing from previous titles and SHOULD have been there. Otherwise you'll see no improvement at best and a lot of loss at worst.

Remember: Google monitors top results for most keywords with human evaluators so if you creep up into this area you'd better be able to pass a sniff test. Keep that in mind if you suddenly want to rank for a new term otherwise it's a fast pass to the end of the line for you.

cntt8x

7:12 am on Mar 5, 2012 (gmt 0)



Thank you, Sgt_Kickaxe
I think i need review my landing page and do seo on-page better to ranking for that term, like you said i can't ranking it fast

tedster

4:27 pm on Mar 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



Google promotes optimization

It's true that Google does recommend "optimization", even for their in-house content producers. However, some actions that webmasters call optimization are seen as "manipulation" and they get algo slapped. I believe the difference often lies in an overall website historical picture, coupled with a current total profile that folds in a couple hundred factors.

This isn't the Infoseek era anymore, but a lot of so-called SEO information still has its grounding back in those days. It's risky to think of Google ranking as something you can easily and regularly play around with through mere technical changes.

projectmanuk

4:22 pm on Mar 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



It is a risky attempt to relate a ranking loss to the title change.

The conclusions are also biased as not all the sites are the same; it depends on lots of other factors. To make it simpler, if your site has a strong hold in terms of popularity and authority, you will see less effect from changing titles.

Slashus

5:21 pm on Mar 8, 2012 (gmt 0)



WOW AWESOME: No one knows how the hell it works! Thanks!

i.e. You have half the people saying you get sandboxed. You have half the people saying you don't. You have half the people saying it helps. You have half the people saying it hurts. And then the other half (this is like 250% of the people, I know) just shrug our shoulders and say wtf, can they all hear themselves?

So basically, Google takes 1 million ranking factors beyond any 1 human's brain could possibly comprehend, assigns a score that dynamically fluctuates against all the other pages for the same kw and then craps out your ranking on an hour/day/week/month by hour/day/week/month basis. And what helps one person in (seemingly) the same situation hurts another and vice versa.

Thanks for clarifying all this for me. I know what to do now. Make pages for people not search engines! Right?

francie brady

5:30 pm on Mar 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



I found 1 change and ranking may go up or down based on relevancy, 2 or more changes within a short time frame (30 days +/- or more - not too sure), has resulted in drop in rankings, usually 10 positions or so. *I keep the title to 64 characters almost every time.

I think Google looks at the home page title as being similar to the sign outside a brick and mortar business... how often does one change their sign?, and how dramatic is the change?

Play_Bach

5:40 pm on Mar 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member play_bach is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member



I recently changed my titles, again. Been changing them every couple of months since Panda took it's toll. Today, I'm finally seeing my site on page one for the keywords I wanted to rank for. Need to check from some other computers across town if this is just localized returns because of my IP, but so far my stats are showing a big jump in traffic today.

Play_Bach

6:48 pm on Mar 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member play_bach is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member



Checking from across town, site isn't on page one, but on page two. However, this is still a big improvement over where it's been ranking since Panda.

cupid

8:51 pm on Mar 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



we experimented with changing titles/metadesc/metakeywords for 10 second level pages. they were quite general and really old & not relevant (from 6-7 years ago). we lost 30-40% of SE traffic to these pages, been over a month now with no sign of it coming back. the bounce rate is lower, time on page, page views are higher, but it hardly compensates for such huge loss of traffic.

we also did a similar test to 10 third level pages and the results were similar, although not as bad- some gains, some losses, with overall loss of about 20%

lesson learned, not touching any titles ever again...

Play_Bach

9:34 pm on Mar 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member play_bach is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member



> lesson learned, not touching any titles ever again...

I changed my home page title back in the days of the Florida update for only a day or two and it cost me six months to get back my #1 ranking. This time, there wasn't much to lose since Panda had already put my site at the back of the bus. When you're on top, there's only one direction to go, and that's down. But when you're down in the SERPS, you can experiment more since the risks are less.

greenleaves

12:23 am on Mar 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



I have changed titles a lot in my experimentations. Here is what I found works:
1- If the title change creates a more 'natural' reading experience (so change from Blue Widget to "Buy Blue Widget on Sale at Discount Prices")
2- If the title change increases CTR

So far, title changes which fit into 1 AND 2, were overall positive within the first few weeks.

I would say that niche granularity is on the increase. So it wouldn't surprise me at all if changes on topics deemed to be 'static' were seen as highly suspect, while topics deemed as 'dynamic' got more leniency.

shri

8:30 am on Mar 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



Am I the only person who still remembers the iocaine reference when such behavior is hard to explain, when it only seems to affect your site?

[googleblog.blogspot.com...]

Should add that this could just be a diversion tactic and a larger part of conspiracy to mess with webmasters. But the thing about building immunity is core to what we all try to achieve with our sites.

I think Dan Egnor still works for Google.

martinibuster

9:53 am on Mar 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

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



Iocaine powder [dan.egnor.name]. Thanks Shri!

Play_Bach

10:52 am on Mar 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member play_bach is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member



Thought that iocaine powder sounded familiar - from the movie "Princess Bride"
[youtube.com...]

FranticFish

11:42 am on Mar 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



Thanks for sharing your experiences. My two cents:

I've been slapped once for doing this in the past, when I changed the title of a site to match the phrase the home page was already heavily optimised for and was the sitewide anchor back to it.

I believe the difference often lies in an overall website historical picture, coupled with a current total profile that folds in a couple hundred factors


Was either home page (or site) already fairly aggressively optimised for that term?

Then when it enters the page it finds nothing new, so you've changed title to rank better.


Recently I've only ever done title tweaks when adding extra content to a page - or at least changing the content substantively, and I've only ever seen positive results from doing the two together (albeit in some cases gradual).
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