A recent notable announcement from Google is that it has updated the method it uses to generate web page titles in the search results. This is intended to produce more readable and accessible titles for searchers and is an important change for SEO marketers to consider.
This is because one of the primary ways searchers determine which search results might be relevant to their query is by reviewing the titles of listed web pages, which comprise the clickable blue links in the results. Google says that they are working hard to provide the best titles for documents in the results to connect searchers with the content that creators, publishers, businesses, and others have produced.
From an SEO perspective, the Title tag is still an important element to optimise a page around, and to focus the content to target the primary search terms relevant for a page. So how does this change affect the way that Title tags should be used and written?
At the end of August Google announced that it had introduced a new system of generating titles for web pages. Before this, the Title tag of a page could be changed slightly by Google, based on the keyword entered by the user, so for example, the order of the words may be changed when shown in the search results. This generally will no longer happen with its new system, because Google thinks this will produce titles that work better for documents overall, to describe what they are about, regardless of the particular search query.
Google’s new algorithm will now fetch and build titles from the content it considers relevant to the user. Basically, they are making use of text that humans can visually see when they arrive at a web page, like headings contained within ‘h1’ header tags.
Google now searches for something in the content, when page titles are already provided because title tags do not always accurately describe the page, due to one of three things:
- Title is too long
- Keyword ‘stuffing’ is used
- Repeated or ‘Boilerplate’ content (i.e. long titles that vary by only a single piece of information).
Recommendations for creating title tags
Google’s recommendation for creating title tags is to focus on creating great HTML title tags. Of all the ways it generates titles, content from HTML title tags is still by far the most likely used, more than 80% of the time.
It’s important to write a simple Title that explains the purpose of the webpage with relevant keywords in it. For example, a BFSI client that provides an online current account service in India should write “Open Current Account Online in India with (Business Name)” and the content on the page should also talk about online current account services, its features, benefits and nothing else.
Below the Title content and search link, the search result snippets are automatically created from page content (or the description metatag). Snippets are designed to emphasise and preview the page content that best relates to a user’s specific search. This means that a page might show different snippets for different searches.
Site owners have two main ways to suggest content for the snippets that Google creates:
1. Rich results: Add structured data to the site to help Google understand the page. e.g. a review, recipe, business, or event. Learn more about how rich results can improve a site’s listing in Search results here.
2. Meta description tags: Google sometimes uses tag content to generate snippets, if they think they give users a more accurate description than can be taken directly from the page content.
Recommendations for creating good meta descriptions
- Make sure that every page on your site has a meta description;
- Differentiate the descriptions for different pages – Use site-level descriptions on the main home page or other aggregation pages, and use page-level descriptions everywhere else;
- Include clearly tagged facts in the description – the meta description doesn’t just have to be in sentence format; it’s also a great place to include information about the page. For example, news or blog postings can list the author, date of publication, or byline information;
- Programmatically generate descriptions – For larger database-driven sites, like product aggregators, hand-written descriptions can be impossible. In the latter case, however, programmatic generation of the descriptions can be appropriate and are encouraged. Good descriptions are human-readable and diverse;
- Use quality descriptions – make sure the descriptions are truly descriptive as they can go a long way to improving the quality and quantity of your search traffic.
If you want to know more about how these changes can affect the SEO of your website, please get in touch.