“For Ranking, Does Google Still Use the Original Title Tag?” Googler Responds

In the wake of the recent title tag update, there are many questions. This is a Googler’s answer to one of them.
SIA Team
September 9, 2021

Recently, on Tuesday, August 24th, 2021, there was a post on the Google Search Central Blog, titled, An Update to How We Generate Web Page Titles.  

I wrote a news item based on that, titled Google Announces Update to Title Generation for SERPs

Here’s a bit of an overview:

Generally, most available web pages on the Internet have title tags. If you’re on a desktop, the elements of the title tag are what you can read on the browser tab of the web page you’re on. 

For example, if you’re looking at this page through a desktop, if you hover over the browser tab for this page, it probably says, “For Ranking, Does Google Still Use the Original Title Tag?” Googler Responds – SEOIntel

That text is the title tag–or, more accurately, the elements of the title tags. 

When you do a Google search and see the results page, the blue headline links you see with each organic search result were, traditionally, a duplication or copy of the page’s title tag. 

For over a decade, though, Google might not display the title tag text exactly as it occurs on the corresponding web page. Instead, what Google might display may be based on the search query. 

So, that’s not new.

What is new, that has sparked a few questions, is this: sometimes, Google may take text that a person may see on the web page, and display part of that text in the title tag location, thus replacing the original title tag text that’s on the web page. 

For example, it would be as though you saw this page (that you’re reading now) in the search results, and instead of the original title tag text (which I mentioned above), you’d see something that Google would think you wanted to see.

Hopefully, I did a good job describing that. 

On the most recent Q&A-style session where webmasters get to ask questions of Search Advocate John Mueller, a participant asked about this: 

“Is it safe to think that Google still relies on initial titles, even when changed for ranking?”

Yes, Google Still Uses Your Original Title Tag for Ranking, Even if It Displays a Different One.

Mueller’s response was, “Yes, at least that’s the way it is at the moment…it is the case that we continue to use what you have in your title tag in your title element as something that we can use for ranking.”

He went on to clarify that, even if Google displays something other than your original title, your original title is still used for ranking:  “…it is a factor that we use in there even if, when we display the title for your page, we swap out maybe that one keyword that you care about, we would still use that for ranking. 

But, Should You Change Your Title…?

John also brought up a question that others have asked him: “I think the…other question that i always get around the titles is ‘Should I change my titles to be what Google has chosen, because obviously Google knows better,’ and the answer is ‘No.’”

Of course, Google, in this case, doesn’t ‘always know better.’

He continues: “…these are algorithms that are looking at things and trying to o figure things out, but you know your site best–you know your users best, so I would not blindly follow…what Google’s algorithms are doing.”

With that, John said something you should consider:  “…maybe there are cases where Google’s algorithms give you good ideas, and that’s fantastic but, I would not blindly follow that.”

With that, I’d like to mention that, in the article I mentioned above (Google Announces Update to Title Generation for SERPs), it says that the HTML title tags are still used most often–more than 80% of the time.

So, having a good, keyword-rich title tag (that’s not keyword-stuffed and easy to read), is the best way to go.

Source: Google Search Central YouTube channel