Google published updated best practices for writing page titles, which includes tips on how to prevent your titles from getting replaced in search results.
The way page titles are generated in search results changed back in August.
Google rolled out an update designed to replace some page titles in SERPs with text that’s more “readable and accessible.”
This update is said to impact less than 20% of page titles. Though it’s possible that number could go even lower if sites start following Google’s new suggestions.
In a new document found in the “Advanced SEO” section of Google Search Central, the company provides a revised set of best practices for writing page titles.
Google also lists the most common issues that lead to page titles getting replaced.
Here’s a look at the updated guidance from Google for what it is now referring to as “title links.”
Google’s Best Practices for Writing Title Links
The clickable titles that take users to pages found in search results are now known as title links.
Previously they were referred to as meta titles or simply as page titles.
It’s helpful to have a new term to distinguish them, because a meta title and a title link can be different pieces of text even though they’re both page titles.
You can indicate your preference for what you want Google to display as the title link by writing descriptive text in the <title> element.
Whether Google uses your preferred title, or chooses an alternative, the text within the <title> element will be used for search ranking purposes.
These are Google’s best practices for writing titles:
- Make sure every page on your site has its own title specified in the <title> element.
- Create unique titles for each page and avoid boilerplate text.
- Keep titles concise and avoid unnecessarily long text.
- Write descriptive titles and avoid vague text such as “Home” for the home page.
- Don’t repeat text in titles for the sake of adding more keywords.
- Brand your titles when appropriate by appending the name of your site to the front of them.
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As you’re following these best practices, here’s how to avoid common issues that could lead to Google replacing your preferred title.
Common Issues With Title Elements
Google lists these as the reasons why it the title link in search results may differ from the title element.
- Incomplete: Titles are half-empty or missing any kind of descriptive text. Example: <title>| Site Name</title>
- Obsolete: The title has not been updated to reflect an update to the main content. This discrepancy could occur on something like yearly roundup article that uses the same URL year after year.
- Inaccurate: The title element doesn’t accurately reflect the main content.
- Micro-boilerplate text: There’s repeated boilerplate text in the <title> elements for a subset of pages within a site.
If you avoid all the issues, and follow all the best practices, Google could still decide to replace your preferred title with something else.
Should that be the case, this is where Google is likely to pull the text from.
How Google Generates Title Links
Title links in Google’s search results pages take into account both the content of a page and references to it that appear on the web.
Google aims to display a title that best represents and describes each page.
The following sources are used to create title links:
- Content in <title> elements
- Main visual title or headline shown on a page
- Heading elements, such as <h1> elements
- Other content that’s large and prominent through the use of style treatments
- Other text contained in the page
- Anchor text on the page
- Text within links that point to the page