New Google Best Practice: How to Write Page Title Links

Emma Grant

Head of SEO

Results-driven Emma heads up our SEO team. A champion of best-practice SEO strategies for search engine success that lasts and delivers best value, Emma’s work focuses on boosting clients’ online visibility with the ultimate goal of increasing sales. Emma applies her extensive skill and experience to create strategies that pay off quickly for faster results. She knows precisely what to do to reduce clients’ paid ad spends for greater profits, and how to boost organic leads for better long term return on investment. After close of business, when she’s not organising exciting travel adventures, you may hear Emma strumming classical guitar tunes or working on her jazz riffs.

At the end of August, Google announced a new system of generating title tags for web pages. The page title update caused a bit of a stir, when some rather unusual title tag rewrites started appearing in the search engine results pages. So why exactly has the search engine started replacing page titles, and should you be concerned about it?

Page title update

Google has been changing meta descriptions for many years so that they match with specific search queries. It’s all about making sure the description matches up with user intent. Now they’ve started doing the same thing with page titles, although in some cases, it’s not necessarily gone to plan. Some weird results have been appearing, such as the US President being shown as Vice President in a search for Joe Biden.

Why is Google rewriting page title tags?

The reason Google is rewriting page title tags is that there are still reams of pages online without proper title tags. Some are stuffed with keywords. Others show generic names, such as ‘home’. None of this is helpful to the user so, courtesy of this new update, Google is aiming to ensure page titles describe what the page is about and provide sufficient context.

Basically, Google wants to give its users what they want faster, and this update is their attempt at doing just that by learning how people interact with a web page.

For websites containing images, video or other special features, the search title tag will help users find those elements easily. As well as an improved title tag, Google has started to display related pages where there are any, to better help users locate the precise information they are looking for.

So what’s the problem?

You may have a preferred page title that you want to appear in the search results. One that will get you a better click through rate. In fact, that’s precisely what you want.

The more descriptive and compelling your page title, the more likely people will click on it. So, how to write page title tags that will stay intact and that Google won’t rewrite?

Thankfully, Google has published best practices for writing page titles, including useful tips for preventing your titles from being replaced in the search results.

Google page title update

Google has published best practices for writing page titles.

How to write page titles, or ‘title links’, in line with Google best practice?

The titles that users click on in the search results, previously known as meta titles or page titles, have been renamed by Google as title links. So that’s what we’ll call them from now on.

Whether Google uses your preferred title link, or chooses its own, the text will be used for search ranking purposes.

We’ve explored how to use meta tags for SEO, and how to add a title and meta description in WordPress. Now let’s take a look at Google’s best practices for writing title links.

The following are what Google recommends for writing titles that are most likely to stay intact and not be replaced with an alternative of its own:

  1. Ensure every page on your site has its own title specified in the <title> element.
  2. Write unique titles for each page, avoiding boilerplate text across different pages, such as content that says the same thing but for a different location.
  3. Keep titles concise and avoid text that’s too long.
  4. Write descriptive titles, steering clear of vague text such as ‘Home’ for the home page.
  5. Never repeat text in titles just for the sake of adding more keywords, and do not over-stuff keywords into the title.
  6. Brand your titles when appropriate by including your brand or company name.

Here are Google’s reasons why it might replace the title link in search results:

  1. Incomplete: Titles are half-empty or missing any kind of descriptive text, for example, they contain things like, ‘Website name’.
  2. Obsolete: The title has not been updated in line with an update to the main content. This might happen if for example you update the same page each year with your company’s latest news.
  3. Inaccurate: The title element doesn’t accurately reflect the main content.
  4. Micro-boilerplate text: Repeated boilerplate text appears for a subset of pages within a site, for example, geographical landing pages.

Now for the caveat… even if you avoid all these issues, and follow all the best practices, Google might still replace your preferred title link with something of its own choice. This will come from either the content of the page, or external references to it that appear elsewhere on the web.

Here’s where it is most likely to extract the text from:

  • Content in <title> elements
  • The main visual title or headline that appears on a page
  • Headings, such as <h1> elements
  • Other content that’s prominent through the use of style treatments such as bold
  • Other text contained in the page
  • Anchor text on the page
  • Text within links that point to the page

Wherever it comes from, Google’s aim is to display a title that does the best job possible of describing what a user will find on a page. For this reason, it’s vital that you ensure all the content with each page of your site is well-written and relevant, so that if Google does use it for your title links, it will still provide the best possible chance of a click-through.

Looking for SEO expertise? Talk to Figment.

If you could use some guidance on how to ensure your title links are doing the business and getting you those all-important click-throughs, the professional SEO services at Figment will be only too happy to provide the assistance you need.

Why not talk to us today to find out how we can help enhance your online visibility and grow your business?

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