March 30 0 207

Why Google Will Rewrite Your Website’s Page Titles and How to Avoid It

There is a 61% chance that google will rewrite the content of your page’s title tag on Google search results. A title tag is a small portion of Google's algorithm that's typically the first thing that users see in the results. It can have a large impact on a site's click-through rates.

Back in the day, Google would typically use title tags to generate the page's title in its search results. These changes were usually minor and focused on length or relevance.

Site owners often find that the titles they create get rewritten by Google. Through a title tag analysis tool, the team at Zyppy was able to identify the scenarios that cause Google to rewrite titles.

They analyzed over 80 000 title tags from 2 370 websites and compared them against Google's desktop results. Out of the 80 000 titles analyzed, Google rewrote 61.6% of them. This study generally agreed with an earlier study by Dr. Pete Meyers and another by Rylko.

Google rewrites your page titles because it believes that its algorithm can improve the quality of your titles. It usually changes the following aspects of page title text:

  • Length: overly long titles and short titles
  • Using the same keyword more than once
  • Use of title separators, such as dashes "-" or pipes "|"
  • Titles with [brackets] or (parentheses)
  • Identical "boilerplate" used across many titles
  • Missing or superfluous brand names

The 3 most common scenarios that trigger Google to rewrite page titles are:

  • Length
  • Brackets/parenthesis
  • Separators


Length

Google normally limits titles to 650 pixels for desktop searches (often a bit more for mobile results.) Ellipses are generally always used to truncate titles that are longer than this (...).

Google, on the other hand, rewrites very short titles.

The team at Zyppy calculated the possibility of Google rewriting each of the 80,959 titles by counting the number of characters in each. Google rewrites both large and extremely short titles over 95 percent of the time, as shown in the graph below.

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Short titles of 1-5 characters (for example, "Home" or "IBM") were rewritten 96.6% of the time, usually by adding more words and information. In fact, any title with 20 characters or fewer had a better than 50% probability of being altered.

Long titles with more than 70 characters, on the other hand, were altered 99.9% of the time. Any title with more than 60 characters has a greater than 76 percent chance of being altered.

The "sweet spot" seems to be between 51 and 60 characters. These titles had the lowest percentage of rewrites, ranging from 39% to 42%.

Note: Simply because Google doesn’t display certain words from your title tag in search results doesn’t always mean that those words aren’t helping you to rank. These are in fact two separate processes.

Does Google Favor [Brackets] or (Parentheses)?

You’ve likely seen titles utilize both brackets and/ or parentheses, e.g:

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It’s a common method to help make key ideas and terms stand out in a cluttered sea of search results.

Brackets and parentheses may seem interchangeable, but Zyppy’s analysis shows that Google is far more likely to consider them differently.

For pages that contained brackets [], Google rewrote 77.6% of titles. Not only that, Google completely removed the bracketed portion of text 32.9% of the time.

So a title that looked like this:

"How to Fix a Broken iPhone Screen [Tested by Experts] — Phone Fixer"

Might now look like this in Google search 32.9% of the time:

"How to Fix a Broken iPhone Screen — Phone Fixer"

On the other hand, the text contained in parentheses fared far better. Google only rewrote these titles 61.9% of the time — nearly equal to all other titles. And Google completely removed the parenthesis section of text only 19.7% of the time, far less often than the 32.9% seen with brackets.

In other words, if you want to emphasize text in titles, it’s far better to use parentheses as Google seems less likely to remove these portions of text.

Which Title Separator Does Google Prefer?

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Title separators are bits of common punctuation used to break titles into parts, such as arrows ">" or colons ":".

For years, the title separator you used was largely a matter of personal preference.

Today, two of the most common separators in use are the dash and its many variations "- – —" and the pipe "|".

Does Google care which separator you use? According to Zyppy’s analysis, the answer is almost certainly yes.

For titles that use dashes as separators, Google rewrote and completely removed the dashes 19.7% of the time — and presumably the content in between.

By comparison, titles that used pipes saw Google remove and/or replace the pipes 41.0% of the time — more than double.

Oftentimes, Google simply replaced pipes with a different separator, typically a dash. It doesn’t seem like using a pipe will hurt you in any way, but dashes are definitely less susceptible to rewriting.

Fighting Google Title Rewrites With H1 Tags

As mentioned earlier, Google now considers other HTML elements when crafting page tiles beyond title tags. The best element was the H1 tags.

Indeed, it was found that using H1 tags strategically could limit the amount of title rewriting Google might perform on your site. In fact, matching your H1 to your title typically dropped the degree of rewriting across the board, often dramatically.

For example, pages that contained at least one number (1-9, 2022, 7a, etc) in the title tag, but no numbers in the H1, saw their titles rewritten to contain no numbers 25.8% of the time.

By contrast, on pages where both the title and the H1 contained a number, Google included a number in the title a shocking 97.3% of the time. In other words, when numbers were also included in the H1, Google only rewrote titles to not include a number a meager 2.3% of the time.

Solution

To dramatically decrease the chance of Google rewriting your title, matching the H1 to the title tag seems to be an effective strategy.

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