Google has confirmed it has changed how it creates titles for search result listings.
So what has changed?
Previously, Google often used the query that the user entered into the search box when formulating the title of the search result snippets. But now, Google has said “this generally will no longer happen with our new system.” Instead, Google has a new system to generate these titles that they say “describe what they are about, regardless of the particular query.”
Google said it is now in particular “making use of text that humans can visually see when they arrive at a web page.” Specifically, Google is now considering “the main visual title or headline shown on a page.” This is content that site owners often place within <H1> tags or which is made more prominent through the use of style treatments.
Title tags are still primary
Google has said that the HTML title tags are still the primary way to produce titles. Google advises site owners to “Focus on creating great HTML title tags. Of all the ways we generate titles, content from HTML title tags is still by far the most likely used, more than 80% of the time.”
Why has Google made this update?
According to the announcement, Google said this “update is designed to produce more readable and accessible titles for pages. In some cases, we may add site names where that is seen as helpful. In other instances, when encountering an extremely long title, we might select the most relevant portion rather than starting at the beginning and truncating more useful parts.”
Is this update important for search?
The early signs suggest yes. If you’ve noticed changes to your click-through rate from the Google search results, it may be related to this update. Google suggests that any changes should be positive for users, stating “our testing shows the change we’ve introduced produces titles that are more readable and preferred by searchers compared to our old system”, however, it has been reported that some sites are losing traffic. Presumably, this is mostly due to poorly rewritten titles.
Google wants feedback on how the title tag update is affecting your site. Looking at the replies left on the thread so far, it seems that the search giant still has some kinks to iron out.
Have you noticed a difference in your site traffic since the title tag update?