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Google Alters Page Titles in Search Results

Search Engine Optimization March 31st, 2011


Don’t be surprised if you notice a completely different title tag in your Google search results. It’s not big news as Google has been doing this for a while, but it’s only recently that it’s become more frequent. The SEO community is still adjusting to Google’s stance on how it generates snippets and titles in their results. Google has officially stated that they have selectively displayed and often altered page titles in search results.

It’s definitely something the SEO community needs to take note of, as it forces us to create descriptive page titles that Google finds relevant. This practice brings to light a few key questions for concern:

Page Title Alteration Factors

What accounts for the increased frequency of this practice?

  • Does Google restrict this practice to first page results only – just how deep does it go?
  • On what basis does Google pick sites to be displayed with altered page titles?
  • Does this trigger irrelevant traffic to sites thereby causing a rise in bounce rates?
  • How does this affect click through rates and leads?
  • How does this affect branding, for example if the brand name is a generic phrase
  • How does Google deem relevant titles for search engine ranking page results?
  • How accurate is Google’s Artificial Intelligence for selectively displaying page titles?

Then there’s the million dollar question – Is this practice justifiable without a site owner’s permission?

No one is sure exactly why this is happening, but it definitely leaves SEO's on their toes. In the example below, it appears that keyword stuffing in the title tag is the culprit:

Actual title: ‘Shopping Bags Paper Bags Kraft Bags Merchandise Bags Gift Bags Brown Bags and Tissue Paper’

Google’s search engine ranking page displays the title as: ‘Discount Shopping Bags.’


Google Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller has officially substantiated these title changes in the Webmaster Central Forum. Matt Cutts also clarified Google’s stand on snippets and titles.


Where Does Google Fetch The Title Tag then?

It’s a known fact that Google has been grabbing titles from DMOZ listings. In the wake of current reports from other SEOs Google seems to fetch titles from various aspects of a site. The following are possible sources of Google search engine results page titles:

  • H1 of the page.
  • The breadcrumb trails.
  • The first line of the page sentence, or whatever Google thinks?
  • Another inference out of this is Google prefers hyphens (-) over the “pipe” (|) symbol.

It’s just another move in a never-ending game for on-page SEO gurus. With it comes the need to ramp up on-page SEO elements to play catch up with Google. What do you think? Do you find this as fascinating as we do? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Post By Asha (41 Posts)

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Google Alters Page Titles in Search Results

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