Google Search Central has updated a section of the Developer Support page that offers guidance on how to control the site title Google uses in search results. The new section is about title tag troubleshooting to identify why Google may change title links.
The support page defines the title that displays in search results as a title link. The title link usually comes from what a publisher uses in the title tag.
However, Google may change the title link to something else. Some publishers and other members of the SEO community have reported that traffic from search results decreases when Google changes the title tag displayed as the title link.
Best practices for title links
Google offers seven best practices for writing title tags that will influence what Google shows in search results.
Seven Title Tag Best Practices
1. Make sure every page has a title tag.
2. Write concise title tags that describe the subject of the web page. Google adds that this also means avoiding vague descriptions such as homepage or profile.
3. Avoid keyword stuffing.
4. Avoid boilerplate that is repeated throughout the site.
5. Brand phrases are acceptable until they become boilerplate. It’s okay to use brand phrases on the homepage (like “a place where people meet and mingle”), but Google warns against repeating the brand phrase on many other pages .
6. Google sometimes uses what’s in the header elements in title links. For this reason, Google advises the use of a distinctive title, which is usually contained in an H1 or H2 header element at the top of the page.
According to Google:
“Google looks at a variety of sources when creating title links, including the main visual title, header elements, and other large and prominent text, and it can be confusing if multiple titles have the same visual weight and the same prominence.
Consider making sure your main title stands out from other text on a page and stands out as being the most visible on the page (e.g. using a larger font, placing the title in the first element
visible on the page, etc. ).”
7. Use the Robots.txt file correctly. Google warns that the Robots.txt should only be used to block crawling of a page. Improper use of Robots.txt is to prevent a page from being indexed, because pages blocked by robots.txt can still be indexed if another page or website links to the blocked page.
Google reports that in cases where a page is blocked by robots.txt and Google cannot crawl the page, Google may end up using a site’s anchor text that links to the page.
We remind publishers that the most effective way to keep a page out of the index is to allow Google to crawl it and discover a noindex meta tag, which will prevent Google from including the page in the index of Google.
Google explains how title links are created
Title links are automatically generated from information on the web page itself and also from other sites that reference the pages.
Google lists the following factors that influence the title link that Google displays in search results:
- “Contained in Elements
- Main visual title or title displayed on a page
- Header elements, such as elements
- Other bulky and prominent content through the use of styling treatments
- Other text contained on the page
- Anchor text on the page
- Text in links that point to the page »
Finally, Google offers a checklist of things to check that may cause Google to write its own title link.
The help documentation offers the example of “Giant Stuffed Animals, Teddy Bears, Polar Bears – Site Name” as an inaccurate title tag.
Google suggests that “Stuffed Animals – Site Nameis more specific.
Text of the micro-type in the element
Google uses the example of web pages about a TV show that repeat the name of the show on every page while omitting more information that distinguishes one page from another.
No clear main title – These are the header elements of the page. As stated earlier, the main title should be distinct from all other titles on the page.
How to Control Your Site’s Links
Google’s tips are helpful in diagnosing why Google is rewriting title tags in search results. The document is also useful as a guide to writing quality title tags that will tend to avoid being overwritten in search results.