BruceClay – Why Does Google Change My Webpage Title in the Search Results? (And What To Do About It)

Google homepage displayed on laptop.

A webpage’s title tag plays a part in Google’s search engine ranking algorithm. It also helps get people to click through to your webpage from the search results. Because of that, I always recommend spending time getting it right.

(If you need a refresher on title tags, check out my article on meta tags, including research on why these tags still matter.)

But what happens when you put in your best effort, and Google changes the title in the search results anyway?

It can be frustrating. But it has nothing to do with your webpage’s ability to rank, which I’ll touch on later in this article.

In this article, I’ll cover:

Fact: Google Changes Titles in the Search Results

We’ve known for some time that Google has autogenerated snippets for the search results, including the title and description.

Title and description rendering in the search results for home page.
Title and description rendering in the search results for home page

But as time has passed, it seems Google is taking more liberties, and this was a topic of discussion in 2021.

Today, Google’s help file on influencing your title links in search results says:

“Google’s generation of title links on the Google Search results page is completely automated and takes into account both the content of a page and references to it that appear on the web. The goal of the title link is to best represent and describe each result.

Google Search uses the following sources to automatically determine title links:

  • Content in <title> elements
  • Main visual title shown on the 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
  • Website structured data

… While we can’t manually change title links for individual sites, we’re always working to make them as relevant as possible. You can help improve the quality of the title link that’s displayed for your page by following the best practices.”

Google Rewrites Titles 61% of the Time

Research from Zyppy shows that Google rewrites titles in the search results 61% of the time.

The research highlights common scenarios in which Google rewrote titles:

  • 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

Much of Zyppy’s research aligns with the best practices documented by Google on titles regarding length, keyword stuffing, branding and boilerplate content.

SEOClarity also researched Google title rewrites and found that titles in position one in the search results were rewritten fewer times than other positions.

What This Means for SEO

It’s important to remember that Google is not rewriting your title tag. The title tag is the HTML code on the webpage that helps Googlebot understand what the page is about.

That stays the same even if Google rewrites the title for the search results page. This has nothing to do with indexing or ranking. It is simply a rendering issue.

In other words, the title tag is still the information that Google uses for ranking. So, you still need to follow all the best practices for title tags. That is important.

“While we can’t manually change title links for individual sites, we’re always working to make them as relevant as possible.”

-Google Search Central

Are you doing something wrong if Google selects a different title? The answer is maybe.

However, Google changes titles because people don’t search the way they used to. Your webpage may be the best answer for a query, but the title tag may not reflect that.

In these cases, Google will try to figure out if a better title is more representative of your webpage and to better match the query.

So long as you are following best practices, then no, you’re not doing anything wrong if Google rewrites your title. That is just Google being Google.

But what about the clickthrough rate? We know that what the title says in the search results can make or break a click.

Unfortunately, there have been some reports of click-throughs decreasing with Google rewrites – with one report showing a 37% drop.

How to Prevent Google from Rewriting Titles, or at Least Help with Relevance

Let’s look at some of the elements that Google says it uses to craft titles, so you can review your page content and ensure it is cohesive.

I’ll use a fictional website that sells honey as an example throughout this section.

Content in <title> Elements

You don’t want to obsess over your title tags, but you do want to put your best foot forward. That includes following the best practices outlined by Google and other best practices, such as those outlined in my article on meta tags.

Main Visual Title or Headline on a Page

Heading Elements, Such as <h1> Elements

A honey e-commerce site might have an H1 tag that reads: “Explore Our Wide Range of Natural Honeys.” Heading tags often summarize or introduce key content themes similar to traditional headlines. So they’re valuable indicators when generating descriptive and accurate titles.

(Note that the main visual title and the H1 are one in the same.)

Research from Zyppy (linked earlier) found that “using H1 tags strategically could limit the amount of title rewriting Google might perform on your site.” And “matching your H1 to your title typically dropped the degree of rewriting across the board, often dramatically.”

So make sure you put effort into crafting those H1s on your webpages. See our article, How to Craft a Headline That Gets More Clicks.

Other Content That’s Prominent Through the Use of Style Treatments

If you have a featured section of content styled prominently, it can indicate key information about the overall page context or focus areas. This helps refine auto-generated titles if headings and title tags provide limited insight.

For example, a site that sells honey may have a featured section prominently displaying the words: “Award-Winning Honey Selection.”

Other Text Contained on the Page

As a website selling honey, you may have an opening paragraph on the page highlighting the company’s commitment to sustainable beekeeping practices.

Although not explicitly tagged as a title or heading, a section of text such as this reflects core content aspects that Google might find helpful for understanding user queries related to sustainability in honey production.

Anchor Text on the Page

In cases where other elements on the page don’t provide clear context, anchor links within content could offer additional clues, especially when they relate to topics of user interest.

For instance, your honey e-commerce site might have a link: “Learn more about our eco-friendly packaging.”

Text Within Links That Point to the Page

A website that sells honey may have reviews across the web that point to a page with anchor text that reads, for example, “best organic honey.”

Since external links vouch for a site’s content, and using descriptive anchors can affect relevance, this becomes useful for identifying which aspects might be best for title links.

Website Structured Data

Google may use page-specific structured data to generate a title.

Final Thoughts on What To Do

The fact that Google is rewriting the titles of the search results doesn’t change the recommendation to craft your title tags carefully.

Google uses them for ranking, and there’s always the chance (about a 39% chance if you follow the Zyppy research) that nothing will change in the search results.

So what if you don’t like the way Google is changing your titles – is there any recourse? In its title tag help file, Google states that you can “submit feedback” to the community, but that’s about it:

“If you’re seeing your pages appear in the search results with modified title links, check whether your page has one of the issues that Google adjusts for. If not, consider whether the title link in search results is a better fit for the query. To discuss your pages’ title links and get feedback about your pages from other site owners, join our Google Search Central Help Community.”

But, evidence suggests that you can modify your H1 tag to reflect the title you want, and Google may pull from that. Once you do that, you can request a recrawl of the page to get it updated quickly.

Struggling to implement best practices for title tags and other aspects of your SEO program? Our SEO experts can help.

FAQ: How do I ensure my webpage’s title remains effective even if Google changes it?

Webpage titles are very important for SEO and user engagement. Great titles summarize the content of a webpage and entice readers to click through and read it.

Google will sometimes alter webpage titles to better reflect the relevance of the query or the content on the page. It doesn’t always happen, but this underscores the need for titles to be flexible and resilient if changes are made. This involves a deeper understanding of SEO practices and Google’s evolving algorithms.

Let’s look at the strategies you can follow to keep your webpage title effective.

Aligning Titles with Content
Webpage titles must accurately represent what the page content is about. Accurate titles effectively align with searcher intent and prevent discrepancies that could prompt Google to change. Write your titles using primary keywords and make sure that the webpage content reflects on the promises made by the title.

Keyword Optimization
Relevant and targeted keywords in your title signal to Google the subject matter of your webpage. Including too many keywords is considered keyword stuffing and can potentially trigger Google to change the title to better match search intent. Use keywords naturally in titles so they provide clear value to readers.

Adapting to Google’s Guidelines
Google frequently updates its guidelines and algorithm, so you need to stay current on how titles are evaluated and potentially adjusted. User experience is very important to Google — understanding the rationale why it may potentially change webpage titles helps you adapt your strategies so that they remain effective.

Crafting Compelling Titles
Separate from SEO, webpage titles need to be compelling enough for users to click on them. Write them so that they evoke curiosity or offer solutions. Even if Google edits it, a title with a strong, relevant message ensures that the main theme will attract users.

Consistency Across Meta Tags
To solidify the theme of your webpage, you must keep the messaging across the title tag, meta description and the content itself consistent. Consistency corroborates the theme, narrative or information presented, maintaining the integrity of your title even if it is changed by Google.

Monitoring Performance
Frequently monitor your webpage’s performance with tools like Google Search Console or our own SEOToolSet®. Analytics tools can show you how often your titles are being changed, giving you insights into how you can further refine and optimize your titles.

Engaging with the SEO Community
Experience is the best teacher. Engage with others in the SEO community to learn about their experiences about title changes. This knowledge can help you develop your own strategy to minimize the impact of Google changing your webpage titles.

While you have no control over Google altering your webpage titles, you can implement these tips into your strategy to keep them effective and relevant for your users.

Step-by-Step Procedure

  1. Find the most relevant and searched terms related to your content through keyword research.
  2. Pick a primary keyword and include it in your webpage title naturally.
  3. Ensure the content on your page directly reflects the title.
  4. Audit your content regularly and update as needed to keep it relevant when search trends and algorithms evolve.
  5. Track webpage title performance and how often they are being changed with tools like Google Search Console or SEOToolSet.
  6. Stay current on the latest Google webpage title management best practices.
  7. A/B test different webpage titles to see which ones perform better in the search results.
  8. Collect user feedback to learn how they perceive and react to your titles. Adjust titles as necessary based on this feedback.
  9. Make sure all meta tags related to the webpage support the same theme as the title.
  10. Review top-performing pages and analyze their titles.
  11. Connect with the SEO community and participate in SEO forums to gain insights into how you should write your titles.
  12. Keep webpage titles under 60 characters so that they fully display in the search results.
  13. Write webpage titles clearly and concisely to improve user understanding and engagement.
  14. When there are major changes to webpage content, be sure to update the title to accurately reflect the new content.
  15. Stay ahead of the curve through continuous SEO training and education.

Bruce Clay is founder and president of Bruce Clay Inc., a global digital marketing firm providing search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media marketing, SEO-friendly web architecture, and SEO tools and education. Connect with him on LinkedIn or through the website.

See Bruce’s author page for links to connect on social media.

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