Does Google know what the content on your website is about better than you do?
Well, Google certainly thinks so. So, in August 2021, Google launched its title tag update, and Google is now rewriting title tags based on what it considers to be the content of a web page.
Not all site owners are happy with the change. So far, some SEOs have observed Google replaces page titles with h1 tags. Others have seen negative impacts on clicks, such as significant decreases in click-through rates and conversion rates for web pages where Google rewrote page titles.
So if some of these titles are producing worse results, does Google really know better?
Site owners will respond differently based on whether the title tag update has damaged or impaired their SEO performance.
But Google certainly knows much more than i used to. As their NLP technology improvement, the claim that Google knows better it will be even more prevalent in the way our content is promoted to search engines.
Here’s everything you need to know about updating the title tag and what it might tell us about the future of meta tags in SEO.
A brief history of meta tags
Meta tags are snippets of code that help search engine crawlers understand the content on your website.
For the past two decades, SEOs have used meta tags to show Google that your content is relevant to specific keyword queries.
Historically, the meta tags SEOs have used to optimize their pages are:
- Title tags: Also called the Page Title, this tag provides an overview of the content. This tag also forms the blue, clickable text of your web pages in the SERPs.
- Meta Descriptions: A description of the content of the page; this tag also appears in the SERP result below the page title. (Google has already been rewriting meta descriptions for the past few years.)
- Meta Keywords Attribute: Site owners can use this tag to communicate the keywords they expect to rank for. However, due to years of abuse by black hat SEOs, Google no longer uses meta keywords as a ranking factor.
- Robot labels: These tags tell Google’s crawlers to index the page or ignore it. It also tells the crawlers whether to crawl the links on the page or ignore them.
So even though metadata has always been important in SEO, Google natural language processing Algorithms have become much more advanced over the years.
That means your trackers rely less on meta tags than they used to be.
It’s possible that as Google’s crawlers get more literate, they might one day completely ignore meta tags.
What is the title tag update?
The title tag update is Google’s new system for generating titles for web pages. Based on Google’s history of prioritizing users, they want to produce the best titles that connect search engines with the best content.
In a recent blog post, Google stated that, “Our tests show that the change we have introduced produces titles that are more readable and preferred by search engines.”
Because Google is getting so much better at understanding human language, their crawlers are now able to rewrite your web page title for their SERP results if they deem it appropriate.
Google has gone beyond
- Content within the
and other header tags
- What the user visually sees on the page.
- Words with specific font styles or sizes
- Additional text on the page
- Text within links that point to the page.
Google has emphasized that when title tags are displayed in SERP, the content within the
Title Tag Best Practices in the Age of NLP
So does it make sense to write optimized page titles if Google is just going to rewrite them anyway?
Absolutely. We are not yet in a world without meta tags. Taking the time to optimize your HTML tags will continue to produce positive SEO results.
Here are some page title SEO reminders to keep in mind.
- Include the keyword or keyword phrase that you want the page to rank for. Make sure your keywords appear naturally and avoid keyword glut.
- Make sure the page title is unique, relevant, and clickable.
- Do not exceed 60 characters. Google will only display the first 60 characters of your title tag. Any higher value will be cut off in your SERP result.
Low-quality title tags that are too long, too short, garbled, or full of keywords they are more likely to be rewritten by Google.
It’s still worth taking the time to optimize your metadata. Most of the time, Google will show it to search engines.
Who benefits the most from the title tag update?
The reality is that the Page Title Update will benefit websites with misspelled title tags the most. However, it will also benefit those websites that haven’t taken the time to optimize their metadata but still have high-quality content on the page.
It may not seem fair for Google to reward sites that haven’t taken the time to shine their metadata, but Google really doesn’t care about fairness. Instead, it is concerned with finding and promoting content with the highest quality and substantial relevance to the user’s query. But of course they also only want to show reputable users, trustworthy websites.
For this reason, focusing on the content of the entirety of your page is also essential to rank higher for your keywords. Additionally, improving the depth and breadth of your content can also help increase the chances that when Google rewrites your title tag, you will get the content right.
Using content assistant tools that leveraging NLP technology can help site owners create more relevant and semantically rich content.
Using content artificial intelligence tools to improve semantic signals on your own pages can be a really effective strategy to rank the most relevant keywords and in higher positions.
Google loves detailed, high-quality content. So using tools with machine learning and natural language processing capabilities can help you create more.
How Google’s Title Tag Update Hints at the Future of Meta Tags
If you’re unhappy with the idea of Google rewriting your title tags, you’re not alone.
Google has been getting feedback from webmasters and SEO on the update. As a result, it has already implemented changes based on various complaints and concerns.
But the reality is that meta tags were never a completely democratic way of determining who should classify and who shouldn’t because it’s ready for manipulation. For example, suppose Google was always asked to use the webmaster generated title tag. In that case, those who are not concerned with quality could use the label to elevate their own pages above others, even if the page experience or the quality of the content is unsatisfactory.
This is why Google has already gone beyond title tags and meta descriptions to promote web pages for several years. Still, Danny Sullivan recently emphasized that for now, the HTML title tag will be used most of the time.
The future of metadata may change, but it’s because search engine technology is getting even better – with everything SEO related, you’re more likely to get rewarded if you focus on quality.
Image credit: Lukas; Pexels; Thanks!