Google Clarifies Guidelines for Title Tags

Wakas Javed

Google has clarified its documentation on controlling the title tags that appear in search results.

Google has updated its Search Center policies to control how title tags are displayed in searches. The update doesn’t change the guide itself, but makes it clearer and removes some ambiguity in wording that makes it difficult to understand.

Google changed the Title Tags

The “title tag” is a Meta element whose function is to describe what the web page is about. They are also a ranking factor.

Because of this, many publishers use title tags to indicate which keyword phrases they want the web page to be relevant to.

Google displays title tags on search engine results pages (SERPs), making the use of key phrases in title tags even more important.

Google rewrote title tags over the years when its algorithm identified more descriptive text than publishers provided.

The ability to rewrite title tags in search results increased dramatically in the summer of 2021, causing alarm in the search engine publishing and marketing community. Many have reported a drop in search traffic due to Google rewriting the title tag.

Changes to Title tags guidelines

On October 8, 2021, Google released a unique guide to controlling title tags titled Control Your Title Links in Search Results (snippet of the original guide from Archive.org here).

Updated changes to the title tag guidelines make it clear what they mean when they use the word “title”.

The word “heading” is ambiguous because it can mean a heading at the top of a web page or a reference to an HTML heading element (H1, H2, and H3).

As it turns out, the original version of the manual used the word “heading” to denote headings at the top of the web page and references to HTML heading elements (H1, H2, H3, etc.).

While headings at the top of a page are usually heading elements, the new version of this guide is more specific, as shown below.

Here’s the original version:

“Clarify which heading is the main heading of the page.”

This is the latest version of this guide:

“Express what text is the main title of the page.”

Here is part of the following sentence from the original version:

“…and it can be confusing when multiple titles have the same visual weight and meaning.”

Newly cleaned version:

“…and it can be confusing when multiple titles have the same visual weight and meaning.”

The original version of the updated third sentence:

“Make sure your headline is different from the rest of the text on the page and stands out the most on the page (e.g. by using a larger font and including the title in the first visible <h1> element on the page, etc.)”

The latest version of the same sentence:

“Make sure your headline is distinct from the rest of the text on the page and stands out the most on the page (e.g. page, etc.)”

As you can see, clarification makes a big difference by making it easier to understand the intent of this guide.

The last change relates to a section that describes what Google uses to determine which words in title links appear in search results.

This is the original:

“Title of the main image or title displayed on the page”

Updated version:

“The title of the main visual is displayed on the page”

Google policy for title tags has been clarified but not updated

As mentioned at the start of the article, the manual itself has not changed. What has changed is that the document is now less clear and easier to understand.

Check your header link in search results

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